Brian Gay dropped a stroke at 6 … and responds by nearly making hole in one at 7. He’s an inch or so away, and taps in for his birdie. The Chinese Taipei amateur Chun An Yu birdied 4, but dropped back to level par at 6. And you’ll notice a lack of Sergio on the leader board below. After his opening-hole birdie, he’s dropped strokes at 2 and 3. He’s +1 but no need to panic yet: compare and contrast to Tiger, who can’t get up and down from the back of 2 with a couple of putts, and drops to +4. This is the mother of all false starts. Another pair of pars for Thomas and Dustin.
-2: Uihelin (5)
-1: Piercy (F), Poulter (F), Gay (7), Henley (5), Molinari (2)
There’s already been some hot action at the 2nd green. Francesco Molinari rolled in a 20-footer for birdie, while Rafa Cabrera Bello chipped in spectacularly to pick up a shot. They’re both -1. Meanwhile on 5, the in-form Peter Uihlein reaches the centre of the green in two, and he nearly drains his eagle putt. Birdie will do, and he’s leading this championship now. His partner Russell Henley makes eagle, though, and he leaps up to -1.
The opening hole is playing as the third easiest today. Tiger has been known to start majors slowly before, but this is up there with his lost ball at Royal St George’s in the 2003 Open. That seven cost him dearly; he ended the week two behind Ben Curtis. But there are 71 holes still to play. Plus a play-off if necessary. Time is on his side. Next up is the 252-yard par-three 2nd, the third hardest hole today. He’s off the back of this one, too, though unluckily so; it was a decent shot into the heart of the green that only just rolled down a small bank. It’s not the worst place to be.
Thanks to Gregg … and commiserations to Tiger, who has made an awful mess of the opening hole. After seeing his chip come back at him, he decides to take the putter instead, and that one comes tumbling back to his feet as well! This is farcical, though in truth the big mistake was flying the green with his second shot, because it’s not easy down the swale at the back. He sends his second putt up the bank, onto the green, and ten feet past the hole. He can’t knock in the one coming back, and that’s an opening triple-bogey seven. Oh Tiger! Meanwhile both Thomas and DJ get up and down from the sand, the former with a glorious splash to a couple of feet, the latter with a 20-foot par saver. A mixed bag, all in all.
Well, Tiger Woods has got into bother already. Having blasted his 2nd over the 1st green and off the bank at the back, his 3rd briefly saw the putting surface before picking up steam as it rolled back down from whence it came. Oh dear! Mind you, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas haven’t done much better. They both found the bunker off to the right of the green. Right, I’ll hand back to Scott now to fill you in on Tiger’s early pain. Bye.
“You have to embrace the challenge,” says Ian Poulter, the joint clubhouse leader on -1. He has a little smirk on his face as he says he is going to enjoy sitting back and watching the others this afternoon. If the carnage continues that will be an exercise in schadenfreude for sure. “This week is about patience, hanging tough when you have to and trying to stay with it until Sunday.”
Tiger Woods is given a huge throaty roar as he steps up to the tee. He’s feeling the love all right. He keeps his driver in his bag and opts to play safe with a long iron. It’s a good choice, his tee-shot has a beautiful arc to it and lands smack bang in the middle of the fairway. Tiger has the world No1, Dustin Johnson, and the world No2, Justin Thomas for company this afternoon. They’re both safely under way too.
Sergio has birdied the 1st. Mind you, a few golfers have done that today. Still, he’ll be happy to have got his eye in early, holing an eight-footer, with a slight right-to-left turn. Tiger Woods is up soon. I imagine he has butterflies having seen some of these scores.
Patrick Rodgers has recovered quite brilliantly after taking a triple bogey on the 3rd. The youngster, ranked 128 in the world, has only one blemish on his card since that wobble and has just knocked home his third birdie, on the 15th, to move to +1. He’s keeping Shinnecock Hills in check. Some feat today.
To give you an idea of just how preposterously difficult Shinnecock Hills is the glittering trio of Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, who have 12 majors between them, have finished the first round collectively 25-over. McIlroy has recorded his worst ever round at a major, shooting 80. Eighty! That’s +10. Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth has finished at +8 and Lefty has taken 77, to leave him at +7. This course is eating players alive!
There are two clear clubhouse leaders but below them names are coming and going like trains at a station. Below you will see how things stand at the very top but many competitors are teeing off and joining the lead immediately with a birdie at the 1st, or 10th, depending on which direction they are teeing off. Whether they can run with that optimism is the real challenge. García has given himself an immediate chance of a birdie, landing his 2nd at the 1st within about 15 feet with a lovely plonk.
-1: Poulter (F), Piercy (F) Gay (2), Evans (1) Humphrey (1*)
Sergio’s on the 1st tee. Where’s Dr Golf when you need him? Ping! A leisurely wallop right into the middle of the fairway will do nicely. His US Open is under way. He’s joined by compatriots in Jon Rahm and Rafael Cabrera Bello. I doubt they’ll struggle for small talk, what with the crisis in the Spanish football team. Rahm and Cabrera Bello join him in the middle of the short stuff too.
Ian Poulter glides a beautiful 2nd shot into the 18th to give himself an outside chance of a birdie and the outright lead. He sends his 20-footer uphill from left to right, but it curls wide of the cup. It’s an easy par though. He taps it home for a 69 and joins Scott Piercy as joint clubhouse leader on -1. What a brilliant round. Is this a comeback from Poulter? We’ll see over the next three days. There’s plenty of golf to go though. And tough golf at that.
Justin Rose, who took a 71 today to go in at +1 – two shots off the lead as I type – is describing just how tough the course is. “Normally you walk off and you’re in the black and it’s not a great start. But that was a great start today. I played really well and hit 13 out of 14 fairways. I did enough good stuff to keep my momentum going. Green speeds were quicker than practice. I was surprised to see how much slope they put the pin on at 7 with the wind. You hit a lot of putts – and what you can’t see on TV – is the slopes. You hit a bad putt and you’re off the green.”
Thanks Scott. I join you just in time to write Oh Rory! Having fought back with two birdies, on 5 and 6, McIlroy tickles a five-footer wide of the cup to drop a shot on 7. He seemed spooked by the wind. It’s blowing all right on Long Island. And he isn’t the only big name floundering out there.
The defending champion Brooks Koepka signs for a 75. A disappointing back nine of 39, but he’s fresh back from a wrist injury, so he’ll not be overly upset with that. Meanwhile a fine up and down from sand to save par for Ian Poulter at 16. And he’s joined in the lead by England’s Ryan Evans, who had missed out on qualifying at Walton Heath but made it as an alternate.
And with that, I’ll hand you over to Gregg Bakowski. See you again in a while. I wonder if anybody can make it to -2 again by the time I get back?
Justin Rose signs for a one-over 71. He’ll be delighted with that. He’s been in good form lately, and that’s continued today. He’s two off the lead, now shared by Brian Gay, the 48-year-old journeyman from Texas having just raked in a 50-footer across 1. Some way to announce yourself at your first US Open for seven years.
A bit of late-round salvation for Rory McIlroy. He follows up birdie at 5 with another at 6. He’s still +8, though the way things are going elsewhere, he won’t have given up quite yet. Jordan Spieth, who had also birdied 5, follows up with bogey to slip to +6. Phil Mickelson follows Spieth’s birdie-bogey model. He’s +6 too. This marquee group has been dreadful. But not as bad as the Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Louis Oosthuizen one at Chambers Bay three years ago: they carded 80, 81 and 77. Fowler and Woods really dragged poor Louis down that day; Oosthuizen finished the week 66-66-67, one shot behind Spieth. I wonder if any of McIlroy, Spieth or Mickelson have that in mind? I bet they do. Hang on in there, in other words, you never know how the rest of the tournament will pan out.
You may remember Matt Parziale, the US Mid-Amateur champion, from the Masters in April. He shot 81 on the first day at Augusta … but the firefighter from near Boston has improved on that today, and how. A stunning 74 in these circumstances. He’s not the only amateur going well today – Luis Gagne of Costa Rica is currently +1 through 11 – but he’s in the clubhouse, out of harm’s way. Incidentally Harry Ellis, of Southampton, England, who won last year’s Amateur Championship, signed for an 80 today.
Matt Kuchar’s fall from grace continues apace. Another dropped shot, this time a bogey at 13, to follow his back-to-back double bogeys. That’s five shots gone in three holes, and the erstwhile leader is back in the pack at +3. A double for Beef at 13; he slips to +3 too. And a triple bogey for another one-time leader, Aaron Baddeley, at 6. He’s +3 too. The clubhouse is the safest place to be.
Scott Gregory’s horrific round has come to a nightmare end. He finished bogey, double bogey, bogey, and ended up signing for a 22-over-par 92. That’s the highest round in a US Open at Shinnecock Hills, beating Billy Mayfair’s 2004 effort by three shots. If it makes Gregory feel any better, John Daly ran up 88 in the first round here in 1986, and five years later he was a major champion.
Louis Oosthuizen has a habit of starting majors dreadfully before powering back later in the week. He stumbled out of the traps again today, with bogeys at 2, 3, 6 and 7. But he’s launched his comeback a little earlier: birdie at 9, bogey at 10, and now birdie at 16. He’s +3. He would have walked it at Chambers Bay in 2015, were it not for that dismal 77 on the opening day.
Justin Rose passes up a good opportunity for birdie at 16. A ten-foot uphill putt pushed to the right. He stays at +1, nicely placed for another tilt at the title he won five years ago in style at Merion. Patrick Reed, chasing the grand slam – well, he is – spurns a similar opportunity on 5; he remains at +1 too. And another dropped shot for young Calum Hill, on his US Open debut, though he reaches the turn in 36 and will be happy enough with that.
Matthieu Pavon, the 25-year-old from Toulouse, doesn’t have much of a major championship record to speak of yet. Just the one appearance, at last year’s Open, and he missed the cut. But he’s opened up with a very respectable one-over 71 today, and he’ll not be far off the top of the leader board come the day’s end. Beef continues to go well, incidentally: three pars since the turn, and he remains +1 after birdie at 1 and bogeys at 2 and 8. His easy-going temperament will hopefully stand him in good stead around a course as frustrating as this.
Scott Piercy is back on the clubhouse with a smile on his face, his feet up, and a cigar on. He’s just signed for a one-under 69, and there’s a fair chance that’ll be enough for the lead at the end of the day. If he’s not in it, he won’t be far off it. He’s got a share of it now, anyway. Par meanwhile for his co-leader Ian Poulter, whose approach to 14 deserved better than the short missed birdie putt that followed it. And more news of Matt Kuchar, who has followed up his double at 11 by wanging one out of bounds at 12 for another double. He’s +2 … and an illustration of how quickly things can change on a course like this.
It’s back-to-back bogeys for Lefty. He drops one at 3 to slip to +6, alongside Spieth, four ahead of McIlroy. Other big names are in all sorts of bother. Charl Schwartzel has just run up a triple bogey on 3, his second of the day: it drops him to +9. Jason Day has bogeyed 11, 13 and now 14 to slip to +8. Bubba Watson has just doubled 14; he’s +7. To borrow a quote from Withnail, some of the world’s top major-winning talent reduced to the status of a bum. Naughty USGA! Sadistic USGA! Yet the thing is, this isn’t even the hardest this course has historically played. Right now, the first-round scoring average is 75.80; back in 1986 it was 77.88.
And a dropped shot for Charley Hoffman at 2 means there are only two players under par now.
-1: Piercy (17), Poulter (13)
Luke Donald hasn’t been a feature in the majors for some time now. Sad to see the former world number one struggle, but the sport’s loss is punditry’s gain … he’s a fine co-commentator. He’s just taken his seat in the Sky box, and when asked if he’d rather be out there playing, declares himself “very comfortable” considering the scoring today. Some nice dry humour. Out on the course, both of the leaders drop shots. Poulter bogeys 13, the result of finding himself waist-deep in fescue after a wild tee shot; Kuchar doubles 11, his tee shot having plugged the bunker and requiring two to come out.
Ian Poulter continues to co-lead this tournament in its infancy … but he’s the only non-US star under par right now. Plenty of European players just behind the leading quartet, though.
-2: Poulter (12), Kuchar (10)
-1: Piercy (16), Hoffman (9*)
E: Pavon (16), Baddeley (14*), Rose (13), Fitzpatrick (10), Olesen (9), Knox (9*), Hill (7), Meyer (8*), Naegel (8*)
Nope, McIlroy’s got to lob it. And he does very well to put the brakes on his ball, 25 feet past the hole. It’s about the best he could do. It’s still a bogey, though. He’s +10 through 11 and now needs a birdie somewhere coming home if he’s not to card an opening-round 80. Mickelson meanwhile pays for a poor chip: a bogey that follows that disappointing near miss for birdie. He’s +5. And it’s a three-putt bogey for Spieth, who drops to +6. The reigning Open champ walks off smiling, albeit in a style that utilises little lip. These three are dragging each other down.