The US Open. Golf’s toughest test. Just don’t mention the rough…
Mark Townsend, Alex Perry, Steve Carroll and James Broadhurst round up the best of the opening day at Erin Hills…
So what happened?
Rickie Fowler happened. The perennial singleton sure knows how to turn it on in the big tournaments when his personal life take a turn for the better.
Fowler won the 2015 Players Championship with bikini model Alexis Randock following just outside the ropes, and now leads the US Open after a flawless opening day at Erin Hills, just weeks after announcing his relationship with fellow athlete Allison Stokke. But more on that later.
His best ever round at a major championship, Fowler’s 65 equals the lowest 18-hole score, in relation to par, in US Open history. He joins Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf, who both carded a 7-under 63 at Baltusrol in 1980.
.@RickieFowler went low in Round 1 of the U.S. Open.
Really low. pic.twitter.com/FkqETlNBwd
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 15, 2017
Fowler led by two for most of the day, until Paul Casey’s birdie at 18 saw the Englishman finish at six under, where he was later joined by world No. 352 Xander Schauffele.
A gaggle of players are at five under, including Tommy Fleetwood, who told NCG in the build-up to the US Open that he knew “absolutely nothing” about Erin Hills. Compatriots Lee Westwood and Andrew Johnston are also in contention at three under.
But what of the so-called Big Four or Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth? Well, more on that here…
Feel good moment of the day
This is most likely Ernie Els’ final US Open, the two-time champion of the USGA’s showpiece but he still managed to get himself onto the first page of the leaderboard before a late wobble. The 47-year-old is playing on the last year of his exemption for winning the Open at Lytham and he managed to find some form from nowhere after a season that has included 11 blank weekends in 17 starts.
“You try to still play the schedule that I’ve played for 20-something years but it gets tough to go out there and play,” he said. “You can’t quite do what you have done or are trying to do because of some kind of little niggle. It gets frustrating.”
And it could have been even better as the South African covered the first 16 holes in four under before dropping shots at the last two holes, the first of which included what looked like a very yippy chip.
“Like I said at the Masters: 23 (appearances) there, 25 here, it would be nice to keep going, but if not, it’s also fine. I’ve had a good time.”
Els needs a top 10 this week to guarantee a starting spot next year.
Spare a thought for…
Poor Billy Horschel.
Form? Tick. Winner this year? Tick. Bit of US Open previous? Tick. Fast start at the opening par 5? Oh.
“How many Billy?”
“Err, nine I think. Hold on, let me just go through over it…”
What we can make out is that he was through the green in three shots, and we know that he lipped out for an eight, but what happened in between is probably best left to Billy and his playing partners. He signed for a 79.
Best shot of the day
“Struggling a bit on four over…”
Not any more. We often see balls dancing round the hole, occasionally hitting the flagstick but rarely doing this. Try watching this from Henrik Stenson again and again and see if you can make out the ball disappear, impossible isn’t it?
The Swede gave both shots back at the following hole.
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 15, 2017
Worst shot of the day
Plenty of the world’s best players were made to look very silly by the thick fescue as full-blooded recoveries only travelled a handful of yards but there was no excuse for what Louis Oosthuizen did from beside the ninth green.
The former Open champion even took the pin out, such was his confidence, but then the right hand took over, the ball barely made it into the air and the club golfer’s go-to greenside shot showed itself on the game’s grandest stage.
Stats of the day
It’s early but for all the talk Erin Hills is exclusively a bomber’s course note Brian Harman T-1. He’s 120th on Tour in driving distance.
— Rex Hoggard (@RexHoggardGC) June 15, 2017
— PGA TOUR Media (@PGATOURmedia) June 15, 2017
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 15, 2017
Photo of the day
More on Rickie Fowler and new love Allison Stokke in Social Spotlight…
Adam Scott. Obviously.
It seems it’s not just all of us who have a man crush on old Scotty Dog, even Paul McGinley said of the Queenslander: “He has a classic swing and classic looks. God was good to him.”
And so say all of us, even Ewen Murray couldn’t help himself, chiming in with “He’s certainly got the lot.”
No white belt, no white trousers, no collarless shirts, just simple elegance.
But he can’t seem to run as demonstrated when he chased down, in a very awkward fashion, his recovery from some intermediate rough.
Got dressed in the dark
Is impossible to split these two pairs of slacks from Hideto Tanihara and Brandt Snedeker. The Japanese wonder looks like he should be stuck down at third man in between half a dozen over of military medium or working in an overpriced London hair salon. You would imagine the black strip is a pocket though what it’s doing halfway down his thigh and where it goes who knows.
While Sned appears to have come to the US Open party dressed as Al Czervik. The American’s ensemble might just about be acceptable on Tartan Day at the Scottish Open but there’s no place for it here. As for the light mauve number up top who knows what the thinking was?
Quote of the day
Jordan Spieth on his and Dustin Johnson’s mediocre work on the greens…
“Neither one of us could make a putt. I’m surprised Martin [Kaymer] could make a couple of them given he was watching me and DJ the whole day. DJ and I will be on the practice round. We might have a pillow fight putting contest, just to see if we can spark anything.”
With the big four all struggling, the oddsmakers are ready to crown Rickie Fowler as the next US Open champ.
But there’s still a long way to go and 11/4 for a player who’s had finishing issues in the past will prevent me from rushing to find my wallet.
With some firms still offering six or seven places, I think Paul Casey (8/1) is an each-way bet to nothing.
He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2009 – and he’s had his chances – but he’s put in a raft of high finishes in big events and at a quarter of the odds I’d be surprised if he suddenly slipped away.
Marc Leishman (20/1) also fits nicely into that bracket following some of the form he’s exhibited in recent weeks.