Rory McIlroy leads the pack. But the top of the U.S. Open’s first-round leaderboard features three recent major winners in Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA), Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters) and Louis Oosthuizen (2010 British Open). Reigning champion Graeme McDowell also sits on the cusp.
Missing from the list are a number of players expected to contend this week.
- World No. 1 Luke Donald opened with two birdies, then played his remaining 16 holes in 5 over for a 74.
“Everyone knows that it’s only going to get tougher and if I can plug away and shoot some good scores coming in, I’m still right there. Little bit discouraging that I didn’t play like I felt like I could play, but I’ll go out and find something on the range and get back tomorrow.”
- World No. 2 Lee Westwood shot 75.
“The course was very receptive and very scoreable,” he said.
- Fan favorite Phil Mickelson shot 74 and then had no comment to the media following the round.
McIlroy Comes Out Strong
As impressive as Rory McIlroy’s opening-round 65 at Congressional Country Club’s Blue Course was on Thursday, he is building a track record for going low.
In 2007, McIlroy made his majors debut with a opening-round 68 at the British Open. At his first U.S. Open in 2009, he closed with a 68 for a top-10 finish. Then McIlroy lit up St. Andrews for a 63 last year.
“The best one was definitely St. Andrews,” said McIlroy, 22, of Northern Ireland. “I played really good there, had a real chance of shooting the lowest round ever in a major. I felt as if today I had a chance to do that, as well. It felt like quite a simple 65. I didn’t do much wrong. I think I hit 17 out of 18 greens, just kept giving myself opportunities for birdies, and when you can do that in a U.S. Open, it’s pretty good.”
McIlroy also has a growing propensity for going high, which he did with his 8-over 80 in the final round of this year’s Masters. He went from leading to 15th on Sunday’s back nine. He also followed up last year’s 63 at St. Andrews with an 80 en route to a third-place finish.
McIlroy says the ebbs and flows are part of the learning process, and that each round should stand on its own.
“You can’t be thinking about what’s happened before, you’ve got to just be thinking about this week and how best you can prepare and how you can get yourself around the golf course,” he said.
Opening Par-3 Proves Daunting
Seventy-eight players opened the 111th U.S. Open on the 199-yard, par-3 10th hole on Thursday. And while that might appear to be an ideal way to ease into a round, most players found it daunting.
“I felt for the guys having to play that first hole early on, maybe in a little bit of rain,” said Graeme McDowell, the reigning U.S. Open champion. “That would have been a tough way to start a U.S. Open.”
Just ask Marc Turnesa, who was in the first pairing at 7 a.m. and promptly made double bogey after his tee shot found the lake that fronts the green.
Stewart Cink, the 2009 British Open winner, generally plays a nine-hole practice round on Wednesday. Yesterday he played 10 holes to get one more look at the hole.
“They gave us a little break by moving the tee up,” said Cink of the hole, which is officially listed as being 218 yards. “And it was raining when we got to the tee, we had to do a lot of the mathematical calculations. I was over there early to see the group in front of me hit. I saw one ball … Heath Slocumhit a nice shot and it came up in the water. I added a few yards to what I was playing. And hit it in close.”
Cink was committed to hitting a 5-iron, but based on what he observed, he opted to hit a full shot. McDowell said he has to “sizzle” a 5-iron into the green and he made par.
Odds and Ends
Listed as 7,574 yards, Congressional Country Club is the second longest venue in U.S. Open history. In Thursday’s opening round the course measured 7,514 yards as a result of tee marker settings being moved. … The morning’s green speeds averaged 13.5 on the USGA Stimpmeter, but that was expected to drop into the 12s by midday. … The pairing of three reigning national champions—U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein—combined for a 1-under score. … The course played to a scoring average of 74.109, slightly more than 3-over par. The 199-yard, par-3 10th hole ranked as the fifth toughest hole and also produced the most double bogeys (16). The par-4 11th was the most difficult hole (4.462), while the par-5 sixth was the easiest (4.910).
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.