Shinnecock Hills humbled many of the world’s top golfers on the first day of the U.S. Open, but Dustin Johnson remained steady throughout the majority of his opening round to finish with a share of the lead.
The No. 1 player in the official World Golf Rankings had four birdies and saved par on the 491-yard par-4 18th to card a 1-under 69, landing him in a four-way tie for first. Also at 1 under were fellow Americans Scott Piercy and Russell Henley as well as Englishman Ian Poulter.
Jason Duffner was one stroke back as the only other player in the field of 156 who did not shoot above par. Included in a crowded group at 1 over were major champions Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
Johnson played in the featured afternoon threesome with Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas, who ended within striking distance of the lead after shooting a 74 amid conditions more benign than the windy morning rounds.
Woods, meanwhile, carded a pair of double bogeys and one triple for an 8-over round of 78, which puts him in a tie for 101st place. Despite crisp ball-striking over a lengthy stretch, the 14-time major champion ran into trouble on the green at the par-4 13th, where he four-putted to drop to 6 over.
His first putt from 41 feet settled some six feet from the cup, and his next ran four feet past the hole. Woods missed the next putt for bogey, clutching his putter face immediately afterward while visibly agitated.
Circumstances worsened at next hole for the three-time U.S. Open champion playing in the final year of a 10-year exemption.
Woods drove into the second cut of rough on the right side of the fairway at the par-4 14th and sent his next shot into even thicker fescue, leaving him little choice but to punch out. His approach stopped within 12 feet, and Woods two-putted for a second consecutive double bogey.
At the par-4 12th hole, Thomas nearly holed out for eagle as his approach grazed the edge of the cup. A tap-in birdie left Thomas at 2 over, helping to salvage the early stages of his back nine after a double-bogey 6 at No. 10.
Johnson made bogey at No. 12 to relinquish the lead he had by himself for several holes, and Woods had a lengthy putt for birdie, but his ball bounced several times on the way to the hole and came to rest less than inch from the cup.
DUSTIN JOHNSON SHARES EARLY LEAD
While Shinnecock Hills humbled many of the top golfers in the world during the first round of the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson played his first nine holes almost flawlessly on the way to 2 under par and a share of the lead among those still on the course.
The world’s No. 1 ranked player made three birdies on the front side, including two straight at Nos. 4 and 5, in his quest to win a second U.S. Open. Johnson also won the U.S. Open in 2016 at Oakmont.
American Russell Henley also stood 2 under through nine while Englishman Ian Poulter and American Scott Piercy were the leaders in the clubhouse at 1 under.
Johnson was part of Thursday afternoon’s most watched group, featuring Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas.
Woods made the turn at 3 over, settling down considerably following a triple-bogey 7 at No. 1. The 14-time major champion is playing in the final year of a 10-year exemption at the U.S. Open, last winning the tournament in 2008 at Torrey Pines by outdueling Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole playoff.
Thomas, ranked No. 2 in the world, was 1 over heading to the 10th hole in his pursuit of his first U.S. Open title.
Johnson encountered his only bit of trouble at the par-4 sixth when he drove into the rough along the left side of the fairway.
The ball bounced once and disappeared into the gnarly fescue. It took nearly all of the allotted five minutes before Fox analyst Rich Beem stepped on Johnson’s ball during a search comprising roughly two dozen people, including Woods and Thomas.
Johnson was allowed a drop, pitched out to the fairway and landed his third shot within 15 feet. His attempt at a par save wound up short of the cup.
Woods and Thomas, meanwhile, landed their approach shots within reasonable birdie distance. Both players missed their putts, however, and had to settle for par.
Two holes later, Johnson put his approach into the bunker protecting the front left of the green at the 439-yard par 4. Woods and Thomas landed their approaches on the green, but only Johnson emerged with a birdie after holing out from the sand.
POULTER, PIERCY LEAD EARLY
Englishman Ian Poulter stepped to the tee box at the 15th hole at Shinnecock Hills, drove his ball a bit wayward and exclaimed, “Where is that going?”
Which about encapsulated the frustration most players, including a handful ranked among the top 10 in the world, had endured after the morning groups were winding down their first rounds at the U.S. Open Thursday afternoon.
Poulter and American Scott Piercy were the only players among those teeing off early to finish below par, sharing the lead in the clubhouse at 1-under 69.
Both players handled windy conditions, treacherous greens and uninviting pin placements with far more dexterity than some of the favorites at the 118th installment of the tournament often called the most difficult test of golf.
World No. 6 Rory McIlroy, for instance, finished 10 over, carding consecutive double-bogeys at the par-4 13th and 14th holes while opening his round on the back nine. The 2011 U.S. Open champion at Congressional Country Club made back-to-back birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 to offset another double-bogey 6 at No. 1.
Jason Day, ranked eighth in the world, ended one stroke in front of McIlroy after closing his round with bogeys at Nos. 8 and 9. The 2015 PGA Championship winner began on the back nine and made bogey or worse on four of his first six holes.
World No. 4 Jordan Spieth shot 8 over in a round that included a double bogey on the 184-yard par-3 seventh. That miscue was part of a run of four bogeys or worse over seven holes on the second nine for Spieth, a three-time major champion who won the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson both carded 77s, and reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka shot 5 over.
Lurking two shots back of the lead was a group that included Justin Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion at Merion.
Sitting four shots back was, among others, reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed. The fiery American carded three birdies, including two in a row to open his back nine.
Also at 3 over were Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar. The Americans are regarded as two of the best players in the world without a major championship.
Top players struggling
With Shinnecock Hills living up to its diabolical reputation amid windy conditions, the top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Open was notable as much for who wasn’t there as who managed to survive as the early pairings began to make the turn on Thursday morning.
Ian Poulter stood in a two-way tie for first at 2 under when he stepped to the No. 10 tee after making birdies at Nos. 3 and 7 on the front side. American Matt Kuchar, also seeking his first major championship, was at 2 under as well at the start of his back nine.
Some of the game’s most accomplished players, however, were nowhere near contention.
Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, for instance, entered as two of the favorites to win the season’s second major but were a combined 15 over the first few holes on their second nines.
Day, ranked No. 8 in the world, was at 6 over after five bogeys on the front side and another at No. 11.
World No. 6 McIlroy, meantime, stood at 9 over following a double-bogey at the 399-yard par-4 No. 1. The 2011 U.S. Open champion at Congressional Country Club began his round on the back side, where he carded consecutive double-bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14.
Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth, ranked No. 4, was at 5 over after 10 holes. Beginning his round at No. 10, Spieth had three bogeys and a birdie on the back side and a bogey on No. 1.
Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson joined Spieth at 5 over through 12 holes, one stoke behind Phil Mickelson. The five-time major winner with six second-place finishes at the U.S. Open made three bogeys over his first four holes while starting his round on the back side.
No player heads into the U.S. Open with more momentum than Dustin Johnson. The top-ranked golfer in the world not only won last week’s St. Jude Classic by four shots over a field filled with major champions but did so by carding an eagle from some 170 yards on the 72nd and final hole.
Johnson regained the No. 1 ranking with that victory, his second this season, overtaking world No. 2 Justin Thomas, and he is seeking his second major championship. Johnson won the 2016 U.S. Open at storied Oakmont Country Club but failed to make the cut last year.
Thomas also is chasing a second major title after winning the PGA Championship last year at Quail Hollow. The current money leader on the PGA Tour claimed his best finish in a U.S. Open last year when he ended in a tie for ninth.
Other Americans squarely in the mix to contend include Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, the reigning U.S. Open champion with a four-stroke victory and record-tying 16 under overall at Erin Hills, a first-time host, in Wisconsin.
Since that triumph, Koepka had been working his way back to full health following a partially torn left patella tendon that forced him to miss four months, including this year’s Masters, to start the season. He also had a streak of eight consecutive top 20 finishes come to an end.
“You go from playing some of the best golf I’ve ever played to probably being at the lowest point professionally that I’ve been,” Koepka said during his Tuesday news conference at Shinnecock Hills. “The lowest point was the fact I gained about 15 pounds. Looking in the mirror wasn’t quite fun.”
Koepka is rounding back into form, however, with a tie for 11th place at the Players Championship and solo second place at the Fort Worth Invitational. He’s ranked No. 9 in the world, two spots behind Fowler, who is widely regarded as the best player without a major championship.
World No. 4 Spieth, meanwhile, won the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, beating Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen by one stroke.
Then there’s Tiger Woods, whose tee-to-green game has been on the upswing as the 14-time major winner begins pursuit of his fourth U.S. Open title. The last of his major championships came at the U.S. Open ten years ago, when, playing on a bum leg, Woods outlasted Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole Monday playoff at Torrey Pines.
This is the final year of Woods’s 10-year U.S. Open exemption. He missed the cut at his last U.S. Open in 2015 and finished tied for 17th when the event last was held at Shinnecock Hills in 2004.
Woods, 42, tied for 23rd at the Memorial this season, but putting has been an issue. He’s tied for 89th in strokes gained putting, and Shinnecock is infamous for its unforgiving greens.
“It feels good to be here,” Woods, ranked No. 80 in the world, said during a news conference earlier this week from Southampton, N.Y. “I’ve missed playing the U.S. Open.”
FS1‘s early round coverage starts at 10 a.m. on Friday.
Fox will have live TV coverage Friday, from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. On Saturday the broadcast begins at 11 a.m. Sunday’s coverage will start at 10 a.m.
The Golf Channel has “Morning Drive” live, on TV and online, Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. “Live from the U.S. Open” will air on TV and online Friday, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 to 11 a.m., and Sunday, 8 to 10 a.m.
USOpen.com will live-stream each round, beginning Friday at 8 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.
Friday (Round 2)
Tee No. 1
6:45 a.m. — Matthew Jones, Ryan Fox, Shota Akiyoshi
6:56 a.m. — Paul Waring, Theo Humphrey
7:07 a.m. — Richy Werenski, Roberto Castro, Ollie Schniederjans
7:18 a.m. — Noah Goodwin, Richie Ramsay, Kenny Perry
7:29 a.m. — Keegan Bradley, Emiliano Grillo, Xander Schauffele
7:40 a.m. — Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell
7:51 a.m. — Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk
8:02 a.m. — Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Martin Kaymer
8:13 a.m. — Kevin Kisner, Ross Fisher, Adam Hadwin
8:24 a.m. — Shane Lowry, Byeong Hun An, Chez Reavie
8:35 a.m. — Lucas Herbert, Brian Stuard, Stewart Hagestad
8:46 a.m. — Franklin Huang, Sebastian Vazquez, Michael Miller
8:57 a.m. — Christopher Babcock, Timothy Wiseman, David Gazzolo
12:30 p.m. — Scott Stallings, Sebastian Munoz, Matthew Southgate
12:41 p.m. — Trey Mullinax, Matt Parziale, Jason Scrivener
12:52 p.m. — David Brandson, Eric Axley, Tyler Duncan
1:03 p.m. — Garrett Rank, Mackenzie Hughes, Aaron Baddeley
1:14 p.m. — Alexander Levy, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay
1:25 p.m. — Paul Casey, Satoshi Kodaira, Branden Grace
1:36 p.m. — Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Reed
1:47 p.m. — Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson
1:58 p.m. — Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Rickie Fowler
2:09 p.m. — Charles Howell, Bill Haas, Charley Hoffman
2:20 p.m. — Sungjae Im, Russell Knox, Matthew Wallace
2:31 p.m. — Shintaro Ban, Sung Joon Park, Tim Wilkinson
2:42 p.m. — Dylan Meyer, Sulman Raza, Chris Naegel
Tee No. 10
6:45 a.m. — Sam Burns, Brian Gay, Dean Burmester
6:56 a.m. — Ryan Evans, Chun An, Yu, Wenchong Liang
7:07 a.m. — Russell Henley, Aaron Wise, Peter Uihlein
7:18 a.m. — Tony Finau, Luke List, Gary Woodland
7:29 a.m. — Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Rafa Cabrera Bello
7:40 a.m. — Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren
7:51 a.m. — Cameron Smith, Kyle Stanley, Pat Perez
8:02 a.m. — Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods
8:13 a.m. — Haotong Li, Si Woo Kim, Kiradech Aphibarnrat
8:24 a.m. — Jason Dufner, Braden Thornberry, Brandt Snedeker
8:35 a.m. — Rikuya Hoshino, Ryan Lumsden, James Morrison
8:46 a.m. — Cameron Wilson, Will Grimmer, Philip Barbaree
8:57 a.m. — Rhett Rasmussen, Michael Herbert, Michael Block
12:30 p.m. — Harold Varner, Scott Piercy, Matthieu Pavon
12:41 p.m. — Michael Putnam, Scott Gregory, Will Zalatoris
12:52 p.m. — Brendan Steele, Chesson Hadley, Harris Ellis
1:03 p.m. — Jhonattan Vegas, Dylan Frittelli, Doug Ghim
1:14 p.m. — Louis Oosthuizen, Jimmy Walker, Justin Rose
1:25 p.m. — Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka
1:36 p.m. — Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett, Ian Poulter
1:47 p.m. — Kevin Chappell, Andrew Johnston, Daniel Berger
1:58 p.m. — Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Kuchar
2:09 p.m. — Thorbjorn, Olesen, Shubhankar Sharma, Patrick Rodgers
2:20 p.m. — Lanto Griffin, Tom Lewis, Jacob Bergeron
2:31 p.m. — Kristoffer Reitan, Luis Gagne, Cole Miller
2:42 p.m. — Mickey DeMorat, Tyler Strafaci, Calum Hill
Friday’s forecast call for partly cloudy conditions with less wind than Thursday and a high of 71 degrees.
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