Johnson in share of lead, An emerges as leading Asian
Southampton, New York, June 14: The No. 1-ranked player in the world had to muster all of his skills in the opening round of the U.S. Open to enjoy a share of the lead on Thursday.
Dustin Johnson, who ascended to the top of the world rankings with his PGA TOUR victory at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week, shot a steady, 1-under 69 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. He joined Ian Poulter, Russell Henley and Scott Piercy in a four-way tie for the lead after the first round.
South Korea’s An, who lost in a playoff at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, ground out a 71 to emerge as the leading Asian golfer in T6 position.
The 26-year-old went out with two bogeys on his outward nine from 10 but fought back with birdies on one and four against another dropped shot on seven to enjoy his best position after day one in what is his fifth start at the U.S. Open. Countryman Si Woo Kim, the 2017 PLAYERS Champion, shot for a 73 to lie in T19.
Making his debut at the U.S. Open, India’s 21-year-old Shubhankar Sharma produced a battling 74. He turned in one-over with three bogeys against two birdies and dropped three more bogeys coming in to sign off the day in T37. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama shot a 75 while Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand carded a 76.
Jason Dufner shot a 70 and is alone in fifth place. Tied for sixth at 71 are Matthieu Pavon of France, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman, Sam Burns, former Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson and An.
Johnson, who won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, was accurate off the tee, hitting 10 of 14 fairways. He lowered his score to 3-under by holing out from a greenside bunker for a birdie on the par-3 11th, but lost some of the momentum with a pair of bogeys coming home.
“I did a lot of things well,” Johnson said. “I hit a lot of good shots, hit a lot of fairways and had a lot of birdie putts. “
Johnson watched some of the morning round and saw the high scores on TV. He understood it was going to be a grueling afternoon. “You want it to play tough—maybe not quite this tough—but it was a day where you had to play good golf if you wanted to shoot a good score,” Johnson said.
It was believed that the morning wave would have an advantage, but windy conditions quickly dried the course from Wednesday’s rain and made the greens difficult from the onset. Only two players from the morning were able to break par—Piercy and Poulter.
Poulter nearly made a hole-in-one on the 11th on the way to his best opening round in the U.S. Open. “(Thursday) is just a good day,” Poulter said. “And I’ve got three tough days left.”
Piercy didn’t expect to be among the opening-round leaders, either. He walked off the course after four holes of his practice round Wednesday and told his wife that he’d probably be home for the weekend. Then he ordered a pizza and re-evaluated his mental approach to the first round. “You know it’s going to be frustrating, so you’ve got to get the right mindset,” Piercy said. “I think last night was a big regroup for me and today it showed.”
Henley was slowed by a double bogey on No. 10 and finished with a bogey at 18 when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker. “I felt really in control of my game,” Henley said. “Off the tee, I felt like I was going to hit it right where I was lined up. Gave myself a chance to have a good round, hit a lot of fairways.”
Defending champion Brooks Koepka shot 75 but wasn’t overly concerned. “I think everybody was just trying to grind it out,” he said. “It’s a U.S. Open. You can shoot, whatever, 5-over today and shoot 1-under tomorrow and be just fine going into the weekend. So, I’m not too concerned.”
The conditions created some high scores. Rory McIlroy shot 80 to match his highest score in a major. Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson shot 77, and Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth shot 78. Jason Day shot 79.
Tiger Woods opened the day with a triple bogey and a bogey. He seemed to settle down until taking back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14, including a four-putt, and finished with a 78.
“It’s tough out there, but I shouldn’t make two doubles and a triple, four-putt,” Woods said. “For most of the day I just didn’t putt well.”