For Robert Rock, a scramble just to get to the Open

Reporting from Bethesda, Md. — Robert Rock did not set foot at Congressional Country Club until Thursday. He didn't even get to the Washington area until 3:30 a.m. Thursday.

Somehow, the English pro sleepwalked through a one-under-par 70 in his opening round. How does one explain that?

"I don't know, really. I'm playing OK at the moment," said Rock, whose U.S. Open debut nearly got strangled in red tape as he awaited a visa. Approval didn't come until Wednesday afternoon, sending him scrambling to catch a U.S.-bound flight.

The best he could do was a flight to Newark, N.J. He then used a car service to get to suburban Washington. Though Rock would not confirm reports that he paid $1,000 for the ride, he conceded that "it wasn't cheap."

Rock earned an Open berth two weeks ago in a qualifier in England, but his travel plans were complicated by a drunk-driving charge when he was a teenager. The charge required him to apply for a visa, for which he couldn't get an interview until Monday. He then waited another 48 hours for approval.

"They were really, really sympathetic," Rock said. "They said [a rush approval] would be difficult, but they'd try their best. They got it done for us, so it was brilliant."

Political pull

Davis Love III wants to bring in a heavyweight to inspire his team at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, Ill.

The commander-in-chief.

Love joined Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson in the Oval Office on Wednesday for a 15- to 20-minute meeting with President Obama.

"We invited him to come to the Ryder Cup in his hometown," said Love, who will captain the U.S. team. "He sounded like he wanted to come. [But] he's a little busy and probably will be real busy next year."

Love, who shot a 70 on Thursday, said he also brought Obama some golf clubs for his Saturday "Golf Summit" match with House Speaker John Boehner. Obama, thought to be about a 17 handicap, is a heavy underdog.

Love probably was not nervous around Obama, considering he has met the last seven presidents, starting with Gerald Ford.

Asked if Obama might come to Congressional during the U.S. Open, Love replied: "I don't think so. I think it would create too much of a mess."

Too close for comfort

Defending champion Graeme McDowell and British Open titleholder Louis Oosthuizen found themselves in an awkward situation when their second shots at the par-five ninth hole came to rest against each other in the middle of the fairway.

"That's something that you probably will never see again," Oosthuizen said. "On the green you see it now and then, but I've never seen it on the fairway."

McDowell laid up with a hybrid; Oosthuizen followed with a three-iron.

"It was quite a funny moment," the British Open champ said.

Under the rules, McDowell — closer to the hole — had to mark his position, then re-mark the ball a club length away to allow Oosthuizen to hit his shot. McDowell then replaced his ball in its original spot.

"I'm thankful he didn't remove a huge piece of turf," McDowell said. "I didn't know what I was going to do to re-create my lie if he had taken a huge divot. He picked it off the turf quite cleanly."

Brusque welcome

Peter Uihlein got a rather harsh U.S. Open greeting. The U.S. Amateur champion's opening drive shot out well to the right, saved perhaps by a carom off the foot of a spectator back into the rough.

Uihlein chopped it out short of the green, bladed his chip across the putting surface, chunked his next shot and wound up with a double bogey.

"Welcome to the U.S. Open," the Oklahoma State senior-to-be said. "The first hole's supposed to be the easier start, and I made double."

A bogey at No. 4 dropped him to three over before a quick turnaround. Uihlein eagled the par-four fifth and added three more birdies over the next 10 holes — only to fall back again with two closing bogeys.

"At three over through four, if you'd told me I'd shoot 72, I'd take it — regardless of how I got it," he said.

As U.S. Amateur champ, Uihlein was drawn into one of the marquee groups with McDowell (70) and Oosthuizen (69).

Though both he and McDowell play out of Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., Uihlein said they'd never crossed paths.

"We're too different with our schedules," Uihlein said. "I'm down there in December and January, and he's on the road for that. Over the last few years I've seen him around, but I never went up to say hello or anything."

Precocious

Beau Hossler, the 16-year-old qualifier from Santa Margarita High who teed it up Thursday as one of the youngest-ever to do so in the U.S. Open, shot a five-over 76 and was tied for 111th place.

"I struggled all day," he said, "but I felt I did a lot better than my score."

Indeed he did. At day's end, there were 31 players who had shot higher scores.

sports@latimes.com

Times staff writer Bill Dwyre contributed to this report.

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