San Francisco: The Olympic Club's opening six holes was a major talking point among the players during the build-up to this week's U.S. Open and the problems the brutal stretch posed during Sunday's final round vindicated their concerns.

Described by Tiger Woods as the toughest start to any tournament, those six holes derailed several players as the year's second major approached its climax, Woods himself dropping six strokes in that span on Sunday.

"The first six, I just didn't play well at all," a frustrated Woods told reporters after shooting a three-over-par 73 to tie for 21st at seven over.

"I just could never get anything going positively and I missed the ball in the wrong side a couple times and that's all it takes. It's tough starting out.

"You know that if you can play them even par for the week you're going to pick up a bunch of shots. Not too many guys I think are going to be at even par for the week those first six holes."

From the opening par-four first, which stretches out to a formidable 520 yards, to the par-four fifth and sixth, which are both just short of 500 yards, there is no relief for the player.

On Sunday, three-times U.S. Open champion Woods began bogey, bogey, double-bogey, par, bogey, bogey, that dismal start scuppering any chance he had of going on to clinch a 15th major title.

"It's probably the hardest six holes ever starting out at an event," said Woods, whose most recent major victory came at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Fellow American Webb Simpson, who went on to win the U.S. Open by one shot on Sunday, also struggled over the first six holes with bogeys at the second and fifth.

"But I didn't think anything of it because I knew I had (hole) seven coming up and a few other birdie holes on the back (nine)," Simpson said after closing with a two-under 68.

"I definitely thought about winning and wanted to win, but I was just trying to keep my mind focused on the hole that I was playing and just somehow make pars."

By the time Sunday's final round was over, the par-four sixth rated as the most difficult hole on the course with a stroke average of 4.514. The fifth hole ranked second hardest at 4.5, with the first fourth toughest at 4.375.

"If you can get through those (six holes) in one or two over par, I can promise you you're going to be beating most of the rest of the field," United States Golf Association executive director Mike Davis said before the tournament.

As Woods can testify with his nightmare start on Sunday, Davis was certainly right.


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