Storms blew through Erin Hills late Wednesday, softening the course and yielding ideal scoring conditions during the first round of the U.S. Open. With light morning winds, Rickie Fowler scorched the lengthy setup, shooting a bogey-free 7-under 65 and grabbing the lead. The key to Fowler’s success was his ability to take advantage of the par 5’s, birdieing all four of them. After missing the cut last week in Memphis, Fowler had clearly done his homework, dissecting Erin Hills with a smart, conservative game plan that was executed to perfection on Thursday.
Just a shot back of Fowler is the pair of Paul Casey and PGA Tour rookie Xander Schauffele. Casey was powered by his usual strong tee-to-green game while Schauffele benefitted from pouring in three putts from outside of 40 feet. In total, 17 players are at three under or better and 44 shot better than par, the most for a first round in U.S. Open history.
As historic “players under par” numbers are rattled off, keep in mind that Erin Hills is playing to a par 72, four par 5’s set up – a rarity in U.S. Open golf.
The trend among leaders?
With Erin Hills playing over 7,800 yards in Round 1, conventional thought would be that the world’s longest players would hold a significant advantage. But, as predicted in our preview and podcast, it turns out it was a day for the accurate. Thirteen of the 17 players at 3 under or better hit eleven or more fairways during Round 1. Despite the course’s length, shorter hitters such as Brian Harman and Kevin Na even found themselves on the first page of the leaderboard.
The struggle bus
Many of the stars struggled on Thursday with Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia being the only two players in the top 10 of the world rankings to shoot under par. The top three in the rankings – Dustin Johnson (75), Rory McIlroy (78) and Jason Day (79) – are currently all are outside the cut line and will need a strong round today just to play the weekend. Jordan Spieth had a rare off-day on the greens, shooting a 1-over 73 despite hitting 13/14 fairways and 14/18 greens.
Who is Xander Schauffele?
The 23-year-old attended San Diego St. and is in his rookie season on the PGA Tour after earning his card via the Web.com Tour Finals. Schauffele currently ranks 135th in the FedExCup Standings and had his best finish at the 2016 Sanderson Farms, where he finished T5.
Leading the amateur leaderboard for a second straight year is Texas Longhorn star Scottie Scheffler, who fired a 3-under 69 and sits in a tie for 11th. The only other amateur under par is Cameron Champ (-2), who is making a name for himself with his prodigious length. Champ averaged a healthy 349 yards off the tee on Thursday, longest in the field by 15 yards!
1 Rickie Fowler (-7)
t2nd Paul Casey (-6)
Xander Schauffele (-6)
t4th Brian Harman (-5)
Tommy Fleetwood (-5)
Brooks Koepka (-5)
t7th Patrick Reed (-4)
Kevin Na (-4)
Marc Leishman (-4)
They may not have the prettiest swings in the world but you can’t argue with the results. Don’t believe the haters.
Wisely sticking to Web
20-year-old phenom Aaron Wise opted to focus on playing the Web.com Tour rather than attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open and so far it looks like a smart move as Wise leads the Air Capital Classic by two shots. The former Oregon star fired an 8-under 64 on Thursday and leads Seth Reeves (-6) and six others at 5 under. Full scores
Of the Web players who played in the U.S. Open, former Florida State star Jack Maguire leads the way after an opening 2-under 70. Maguire made the cut in the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, finishing in a tie for 57th. Along with Maguire, last week’s winner Steven Jaeger is 1 under and in good shape to make the cut.
An unexpected headline of the morning popped up when a blimp crashed near Erin Hills during the early wave. Luckily no one was killed, although the pilot suffered serious burns before parachuting from the flaming aircraft. The blimp was being used for advertising and was not commissioned by the USGA or Fox. Maybe this will be the end of blimps at golf events, as Fox has opted for planes for its telecast and the PGA Tour has weaned off them in 2017.
Nothing beats a good white polo on a hot summer day
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