It isn’t the first time the U.S. Open has been played in Los Angeles, however. The last time the U.S. Open was in the L.A. area was in 1948 at Riviera Country Club at the Pacific Palisades. This is also the first major tournament since the partnership between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf was announced, creating an added buzz to the event.
Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele sit atop the leaderboard at 8-under after each matched a major record by shooting 62. Despite their historic performances, they don’t have a ton of breathing room; scores were low throughout the day and Wyndham Clark and two-time major champion Dustin Johnson both went 6-under to sit just two strokes back. Four-time major champ Rory McIlroy is one shot back of Johnson and Clark after shooting 5-under. He’s in a tie with Brian Harman.
There’s still three days remaining to determine who will earn shares of the $20 million purse and go home with the U.S. Open Championship Trophy.
“This course you can make a lot of birdies if you position yourself well off the tee, especially.” Knight said. “So, I played pretty solid today. Didn’t make a ton of mistakes and, when I did, I was able to recover.”
Ally Ewing was a stroke back at 67 with Amy Yang, Emily Kristine Pedersen, Alison Lee and Eun-Hee Ji.
“If you hit solid golf shots here you can make some birdies,” Ewing said. “So, I just stuck with a good game plan and tried to give myself a lot of looks and was able to convert some longer putts early on.”
Ashleigh Buhai, the ShopRite LPGA Classic winner last week in New Jersey, and Minjee Lee topped the group at 68.
Brooke Henderson, the Canadian who won the event in 2017 and 2019, opened with a 69. Lexi Thompson, the 2015 winner, also shot 69. Would I have enjoyed a faster, firmer, more difficult setup? Absolutely. Some of that has to do with a lack of wind, and some of it was the USGA giving players an easy entrance into this championship. One thing is for sure: The scoring average will not be 71.3 on any of the remaining three days.
“I’m sure after Rickie did what he did they will make it quite a bit harder for us Friday afternoon,” said Max Homa after shooting 68 in the first round.
“They definitely moved some tees up today,” said Harris English after his 67. “I was a little surprised with that. To me, this is probably the easiest that it could have played today. I’m sure when we see those scores, a couple 8 unders, they’re not going to like it too much. But, yeah, it was probably the shortest it could play today. No crazy, crazy pins. So, I think it can only get harder from here.”
“I thought the course was incredibly set up,” said Phil Mickelson after his 1-under 69. “They moved some tees up and they had some soft pins to let us get off to a good start, but it’ll play a lot harder as it goes on. But I think it’s such a great setup, that, granted, the scores are a little bit lower with greens being receptive and so forth. But there’s a lot more teeth in this course if they want to use it, and still, it’s fair.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is the only non-American inside the top five, as he shot five-under 65 to end the day level with Brian Harman. The 2011 champion was on track to beat Fowler and Schauffele’s record after making the turn at five-under par but could only add one more birdie on the closing nine holes.
A loss of pace looked in danger of sliding into full-on reverse at the last hole when McIlroy’s attempt to escape the rough near the green went nowhere, but the four-time major winner recovered superbly to putt from 11 feet and escape with a bogey.
American quartet Bryson DeChambeau, Scottie Scheffler, Harris English and Sam Bennett join Korea’s Kim Si-woo and France’s Paul Barjon in the group bunched at three-under overall.
Schauffele and Fowler’s historic rounds saw the duo join Branden Grace as the only players to shoot 62 at a men’s major championship.
The South African had stood alone since his record-breaking third round at the 2017 Open Championship, though the American pair will be hoping their record-breaking rounds ends better than Grace’s eventual tied-sixth finish.
Fowler’s 10 birdies marked the most ever recorded in a US Open round. Schauffele, who went bogey-free, attributed the low scores to an abundance of moisture in the greens.
“I think it made the greens that more holeable speed, and then coming into greens you’re able to pull some wedges back,” he told reporters.
“Then the fairways are a little bit softer, too, because of that overcast, and without the sun out it’s not drying out much. I think fairways are easier to hit and greens are a little bit softer.
“I’m anticipating the sun to come out just as much as every West Coast person out here you just wait until this place firms up. It’s going to be nasty.” “The sun didn’t come out and it was misting this morning, so I’d say the greens held a little bit more moisture than anticipated,” said Schauffele, who had eight birdies in a bogey-free round. “And then the fairways are a little bit softer, too, because of that sort of overcast, and without the sun out it’s not drying out much. I think fairways are easier to hit and greens are a little bit softer.”
If the weather doesn’t change over the next three days, it’s going to be up to USGA officials to give the world’s best players a traditional stern test. And after what Fowler and Schauffele did on Thursday, most golfers expect Friday’s setup to be much more difficult.
“There’s a lot more teeth in this course,” said six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who is 1 under after 18 holes.
The USGA won’t place the pins in the deep bunkers or barrancas, the steep-sided gulleys that litter the course, during the final three rounds. But it probably won’t be much fun the rest of the way after what happened during the first round.
Both are within striking distance at LACC, especially Harman, who posted a 5-under 65 in the first round. After a good fall, in which he was runner up at the World Wide Technology Championship and tied for second at the RSM Classic, Harman hadn’t done much since the calendar turned to 2023. He missed the cut at the Masters and the PGA Championship.
“Finally found a little bit of ball-striking,” said Harman, who hit 15 of 18 greens. “It’s been a tough go the last few months. Really had a great fall and was really hoping to kind of springboard into this year, and it’s just been kind of hit or miss. So just trying to rededicate myself and get as mad as I can and try to hit some good shots. Finally did come through today.”
Mickelson was 3 under after 13 holes, but then posted bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7. He can complete the career Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open. He turns 53 on Friday. It was his 26th round under par at the U.S. Open, which is one shy of tying Tom Watson for second-most all-time. Nicklaus has 38 rounds under par.
“I played OK,” Mickelson said. “I made a few bad swings that cost me a few strokes, but I made a lot of good swings today. It’s a decent start and I have a chance tomorrow morning to come out and shoot a good solid round and get myself in position for the weekend.”
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