Fitz doing bits, Phil’s rotten birthday, and the defending champ gets his ball pinched. George Cooper recaps an eventful first day at Brookline

After all the pre-tournament conversation was dominated by LIV Golf’s rebel venture, at last, business became strictly golf as the 2022 US Open got underway at Brookline.

Rory McIlroy led the early charge on day one, carding a 67 as he continues to revel in pressure on and off the course. Adam Hadwin then went one better, moving above a bunched leaderboard to earn himself an outright lead on 4-under par. But what about the the other talking points from the first round?

Tarren tops Brookline after airline drama

You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know who Callum Tarren was before the 122nd US Open teed off. But as day one at Brookline progressed, the Englishman had everyone searching his name after carding an exceptional 67 to become the early surprise leader.

“Life is good,” Tarren said following the feat. You can say that again.

Starting on the 10th hole in just his second major appearance, the PGA rookie got off to a tetchy start when he bogeyed the opening hole, but soon settled the nerves with a run of 8 consecutive pars. Then, Tarren exploded into life, making three birdies and a stunning eagle on the par 5-8th to finish 3-under and sit as clubhouse leader.

No doubt a dream start for Darlington’s very own, whose only other major start resulted in a missed cut at the 2019 US Open. And yet, it was almost a nightmare for Tarren, as his clubs failed to arrive in Boston earlier that week. It wasn’t the first time, either…

“I flew in Saturday and my clubs didn’t arrive. It’s actually my second major championship without clubs, it’s happened before!” Tarren told Sky Sports. “Luckily somebody was in Canada last week, so she went to the airport and pushed the issue, and I got them on Sunday.”

How grateful he will now be for his airline heroine, who after retrieving his sticks sits in T2 alongside McIlroy, David Lingmerth, MJ Daffue and Joel Dahmen.

Phil’s rotten birthday

It was hardly a birthday to remember for Phil Mickelson, but was it ever going to be?

All the spotlight was on Lefty this week as he rocked up to Brookline fresh off ending his notorious hiatus at the controversial LIV Golf Invitational. And, after days of turning into a PR guru and wanting to focus purely on the golf, Mickelson’s opening round did little to divert the narrative back to the course – albeit for a putting meltdown, which we’ll get to in a second.

Celebrating his 52nd birthday, Mickelson was greeted on the first tee by warm applause and several cheers from the Boston crowd, but the American’s birthday bash quickly turned rotten in the ensuing 18.

Three bogeys in Mickelson’s opening five holes was followed by a catastrophic double-bogey on the par-3 6th, which included a, wait for it, four-putt from 12-feet as Mickelson capitulated on the green.

Hard to watch? We’ll let you be the judge of that…

The horror show didn’t end there either, as Mickelson went three-over on the back-nine to eventually post a miserable 78.

Fitz doing bits

Now time for shot of the day, which comes courtesy of the man who just can’t get enough of Brookline.

Returning to The Country Club nine years on from an historic US Amateur victory, Matt Fitzpatrick backed up the pre-tournament chatter with another dazzling display at the course which kickstarted his professional career.

The Yorkshireman carded five birdies en route to a solid 68, again relying on his formidable short game in the process. Such wizardry was typified on the par-4 12th, when, after finding the thick stuff just off the green, produced some cack-handed magic to hole out for birdie and earn my plaudit for shot of the day. Take it away, Fitz…

Rahm has ball stolen, still makes birdie

Players are expected to encounter all types of obstacles when they tee up at ‘the toughest test in golf’. But despite the brutal rough, lightning-fast greens, and sheepishly narrow fairways, Jon Rahm came across a different hurdle on the 18th when two young fans fancied themselves a souvenir.

A year on from his heroics at Torrey Pines, Rahm hit his tee shot on the par 4-18th left in the rough, but soon discovered his ball had been replaced by a marshal’s flag. The reason? A couple of rascals had grabbed the Spaniard’s ball and done a quick dash from the scene of the crime.

“I am 100% sure I saw the kids that stole it.” Rahm joked after the round.

In the end, everyone was a winner, as the defending champ dropped down a replacement ball, dialled it in to 20-foot, and sunk the putt for the day’s most unusual birdie to finish with a 69.

Scott catches brutal break

Adam Scott was a tough watch all day no thanks his questionable outfit, but the 8th at Brookline produced a horror show to match by throwing the Aussie a truly brutal break.

Dressed like he was ready to bowl an over at Lords, Scott had just 60 yards in for his third shot at the par 5-8th, but the approach came up short to leave the 2013 Masters champion with a lengthy birdie putt. Or so he thought.

Before Scott could reach for the flatstick, his ball spun back before catching the slope of the green, and you can guess what happened next…

A monster 2-yard pitch from Scott, who was forced to play the exact same shot for his 4th. Forever the accustomed pro, the 41-year-old held back the frustration and stuck the subsequent shot to 3-feet to save par. The Aussie then ended up trumping Brookline on day one with a 1-under 69.

Hagestad channels inner-Ouimet

With the US Open returning to Brookline 109 years on from Francis Ouimet’s historic victory, one amateur took inspiration from the icon’s countless homages this week by soaring into early contention at The Country Club.

Reminiscent of the ‘father of amateur golf’, Stewart Hagestad was a complete unknown heading into Brookline, but the financial analyst swapped business for birdies early doors as he made four in a seven-hole stretch to earn a solo lead after 11 holes. And everyone was loving it:

But playing in a fourth US Open where he’s yet to the make the cut, nerves soon got the better of the 31-year-old qualifier, as Hagestad dropped six shots on the back-nine to card a 3-over 73.

Elsewhere on the amateur scene, keeping their cool in true Ouimet fashion were Travis Vick and Sam Bennett, who both finished even par to position themselves T26. Ouimet would no doubt be proud of the strong amateur showing on Thursday, who after round one in 1913, was still six adrift himself.

And finally…

Jordan Spieth missed practice and was almost forced out of the tournament with food poisoning, but he (mostly) recovered and recorded a rollercoaster 72 on day one which included four bogeys in the opening six holes.

Whatever happens though, he’ll always have his loyal fans. Including one not too far from home…

Visit our dedicated US Open website for news, features, tee times, TV schedules and much, much more

Subscribe to NCG