Wind takes heavy toll on big names in U.S. Open
June 14, 2018
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
- A wind-swept Shinnecock Hills proved to be a tough test in the first round of the 2018 U.S. Open. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Graeme McDowell was at his rental house and awaiting his afternoon tee time when he decided to turn the television on and watch a bit of morning golf at the 118th U.S. Open at wind-blown Shinnecock Hills.
What he saw was a fright.
“I’m not so sure it was good for my morale,” McDowell said.
He would shoot 79, and afterward, in the twilight, wonder aloud if it is better to know you’re about to be punched in the nose, or to just be punched in the nose.
Shinnecock won the first round by TKO, and it really wasn’t even close.
Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, who have won 12 majors between them, went a combined 11-over for their first four holes, and they were just getting started. Mickelson hit 13 of 14 fairways but still made just one birdie and signed for a 77. Spieth triple-bogeyed the par-3 11th on the way to a 78. McIlroy had to play the last seven holes in even for an 80.
“Just tried to do a little too much on the second hole and it kind of bit me,” said Spieth, who found a greenside bunker at 11 and failed to hold the slippery green with his next two shots before two-putting for his triple. “From there it was just kind of a grind. Played pretty well to be even through the rest of the nine and then just didn't make very good swings.”
Just four players shot under par, with Russell Henley, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy tied for first at 1-under 69. Jason Dufner was at 70, and the other 151 players were over par. The field average was nearly 76.5. Jon Rahm, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Adam Scott were among those who also shot 78. Adam Hadwin and Martin Kaymer each enjoyed an 83.
“Of course the wind made it difficult to hit fairways and hit greens,” McDowell said. “But the golf course, tee to green, it’s not like it was unplayable. They really did not get shy with the pins, they were on all the tough spots. You couldn’t complain about it, though. I mean, guys were getting the ball around so there’s nothing to moan about.”
Scott Gregory, who won the 2016 British Amateur, shot 92 and afterward spoke to reporters, earning style points in the media tent. It was the first U.S. Open round in the 90s since 2002.
“This golf course is an extremely difficult course to play with no wind,” said co-leader Poulter, who hit 11 of 14 fairways. “Playing at 25-mile-an-hour wind is pretty stressful.”
Justin Rose (71), a two-time winner this season and one of the pre-tournament favorites, said Thursday was about maintaining composure and minimizing the damage.
“Happy it's over,” he said.
Scott Stallings had a long par putt at the par-4 14th hole, but not only missed, he watched his ball sail off the green and down a swale. He made a 9 on the way to an 80. Satoshi Kodaira, who won the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head earlier this season, failed to make a birdie and shot 81.
Jason Day, a two-time winner this season and a pre-tournament favorite, came in with a 79. He hit just seven of 14 fairways in the morning wave, and cited not just the stiff breeze but also the USGA’s choice of pin positions as contributing to the difficulty.
“It’s hard enough,” Day said after making just one birdie. “We’ve got at least 20 miles an hour of wind. Shinnecock is hard. If you’re not quite there, you don’t hit enough fairways—you’ve just got to hit fairways first, and I didn’t do that and that’s why I played bad.”
McIlroy didn’t hit fairways, either, battling a right miss, but he did make the first birdie in his group—on the 15th hole. Spieth at times fought his putter, as he has all season. And while Mickelson was trying to become just the sixth player to win the career Grand Slam, he now has work to do just to make the cut on a course where he finished second in 2004.
Neither he nor McIlroy spoke to reporters after the round.
The carnage continued in the afternoon as Woods’ second shot missed long at the first hole, his next two pitches rolled back off the turtle-back green, and he made a triple-bogey 7. He was able to stabilize some after that, but he faltered late and is tied for 102nd place after a 78.
“It's tough out there,” Woods said. “But, I mean, shouldn't make two doubles and a triple, four-putt.”
Brooks Koepka tied the record score in relation to par when he shot 16 under to win the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, but there was no such magic this time around as he shot an opening 75. On the bright side, no one will come close to 16 under at Shinnecock.
“It's a U.S. Open,” Koepka said. “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.”
For him and others who were blown away, the promise of tomorrow was all they had left.