The last six winners of major championships were first-time champions: Jason Day, 2015 PGA; Danny Willett, 2016 Masters; Dustin Johnson, 2016 U.S. Open; Henrik Stenson, 2016 Open Championship; Jimmy Walker, 2016 PGA; Sergio Garcia, 2017 Masters. First-round leader Rickie Fowler would also be a first-time champion.
Fowler had 7 birdies and 11 pars in his record-tying opening round, and he was 15-for-15 putting inside 10 feet. His 7-under 65 matched Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf for the lowest first round in relation to par in U.S. Open history (both shot 7-under 63 at Baltusrol in 1980).
Ernie Els (2-under 70), on his first impressions of Erin Hills: “I felt good from the moment I walked through the gates here and on the course. I look over and … the crowd is happy to see us here. It’s a first-time U.S. Open site, so there are a lot of positives out there, and I’m trying to feed off of that.”
Adam Hadwin (4-under 68) birdied six consecutive holes, tying the record for most consecutive birdies in U.S. Open history, held by George Burns (Nos. 2-7 in 1982) and Andy Dillard (Nos. 1-6 in 1992), both at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Hadwin’s run started on No. 18 and ended on No. 5.
Paul Casey (6-under 66), on the low scoring: “I like watching guys make birdies. First of all, I’m a golf fan. And I like to think if somebody else is making birdies, that means they’re out there. It was fun to watch Rickie this morning. It was a bit of a clinic and it displayed where you need to position on this golf course. I’d like to think we learned a little bit and thank him for that this morning.”
Four players, including Round 1 leader Fowler, posted bogey-free rounds. Last year at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, only eventual champion Dustin Johnson had a bogey-free first round.
Marc Leishman (4-under 68), on how Erin Hills suits his game: “Obviously, there’s a lot of golf to play, but the U.S. Open hasn’t always been my best golf moment. But as far as U.S. Open courses go, I feel like this one suits me the best. You need a little imagination, hitting it in the right spots… It’s more what I grew up on in Australia. And I tend to play better on this type of golf course, so you enjoy what you play well on.”
The 508-yard, par-4 third hole was the second-easiest fairway to hit Thursday (89 percent), but also featured the most difficult green to hit in regulation (41 percent). It played to a 4.22 stroke average, the fifth-toughest hole.
The par-5 18th hole, the longest on the course on Thursday at 637 yards, played downwind and was the third-easiest hole in U.S. Open history since full-field scoring records were tracked beginning in 1970. The average score was 4.64, an average of 0.36 strokes under par, and included four eagles and 62 birdies.
Patrick Reed (4-under 68), on his game plan: “Every time I stepped on the tee, I tried to play really aggressive. For me, it’s more of a challenge not playing aggressive, because there’s a lot of times I want to go down the most aggressive line I can. Go for every flag.”
Davis Love IV (1-under 71), on whether his father and caddie, Davis Love III, helped him on the course: “Absolutely. On 17, I hit it far enough left to where I was in the matted-down stuff where all the fans have been walking. And I had 190 yards to the hole downwind, and he told me to hit pitching wedge. I remember saying, what? I flew a pitching wedge 200 yards out of that rough, downwind. It flew all the way to the back of the green. If he hadn’t been there to tell me to hit pitching wedge, I would have soared it into the grandstands. So he definitely saved me a few shots today.”
Jason Day (7-over 79), on his struggles in Round 1: “I just played bad golf, man (laughing). I can’t put it any other way other than just – there was some good stuff mixed in with a lot of poor stuff. Two triples, I don’t know. It’s weird. You sit there and it’s not like I gave up. I actually gave it 100 percent all the way through the end and I shot 79.”
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.