Remember last year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills, which Brooks Koepka won at 16-under par? Well, things are going to be a little different this year.
Shinnecock Hills brought the pain in Thursday’s first round, punishing — and in some cases, embarrassing — the best golfers in the world.
Many golf fans tune into the U.S. Open to watch the best players in the world struggle. That didn’t happen last year in Wisconsin. But don’t worry, this year will more than make up for it.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the first round:
Dustin Johnson reclaimed his world No. 1 ranking with a win in Memphis last week. And as the U.S. Open began, he very much looked like the best player in the world. Johnson navigated his way around Shinnecock in 1-under par 69 to tie for the first-round lead with Ian Poulter, Scott Piercy and Russell Henley. Those four players were the only guys to finish under par Thursday.
Johnson’s round was impressive because he made it look so easy. He had a smart game plan, hitting irons off of several tees and making sure he got the ball into play. And it paid off. Johnson hit 10 of 14 fairways, made three birdies and made nothing worse than a bogey — which is impressive because both of his playing competitors, Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas, each made a mess of at least one hole.
“I’m very pleased with the round,” Johnson said. ” Anything under par on this golf course is very good, especially in the conditions we [had]. I felt like, you know, from start to finish, it was very difficult. … You had to focus on every single shot you hit, putts, everything. You know, it was just difficult all day.”
Some of the biggest names in golf had the worst days at Shinnecock. Phil Mickelson (7-over 77), Bubba Watson (7-over 77), Woods (8-over 80), Jordan Spieth (8-over 78), Jon Rahm (8-over 80) Jason Day (9-over 79) and Rory McIlroy (10-over 80) are all in grave danger of missing the cut after a brutal first day at the Open.
McIlroy had the craziest round of all, making three bogeys, two double bogeys and a birdie in an eight-hole stretch.
It’s not what we see on tour. But it’s fun to watch the best golfers in the world struggle to make pars — even if they don’t love it.
Shot of the day
Dean Burmester stepped onto the 18th tee, weary after a long day of battling Shinnecock Hills. Then, he unleashed two of the most impressive shots of the first round. Burmester cranked a 411-yard drive on the 491-yard closing hole.
Sure, the wind was at his back. But Burmester joked that he’d only hit a drive that long “maybe down a tall road.”
What happened next was even more remarkable. Burmester hit his loft wedge from about 117 yards. He jarred it. The ball landed in the hole, on the fly, for an eagle — the only eagle on a par 4 on this difficult day.
His main emotion when it went in? Relief.
“I was having a long day, you know, 7-over,” Burmester said. “Ended up 5-over, not too bad. It was a lovely way to finish.”
Hole of the day
No 14, Par 4, 513 yards
This long par 4 was so tough on Thursday — the toughest hole on the course, by far — that it might as well have been a par 5. Players averaged 4.808 shots to complete the hole, which actually made it more difficult than the par 5 fifth hole, where the average score was 4.686.
There were only eight birdies for the day to go with 52 pars and 49 bogeys. But, remarkably, nearly a quarter of the field, 37 golfers, made double bogey or worse on this hole. The lesson for the week, don’t hit it right at 14, that’s where most of the double bogeys came from, including one from Woods.
“You can’t compare it really to a normal — to a regular event. It’s not a regular event. … You never see 3-foot deep rough 8 feet off a fairway. So that’s why you’ll see the scores you see.”
— Ian Poulter, who shot 1-under to tie for the first-round lead
“Shoot something in the 60s tomorrow, and I’ll be just fine.”
–Tiger Woods, who shot 8-over 78 and is eight off the lead
“It’s a very tricky golf course, and in these windy conditions, yeah, it doesn’t get much harder than this. You know, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry, and I guess we chose to laugh today, which is obviously the better option.”
— Henrik Stenson, who shot 1-over 71 and is tied for sixth place