Johnson continues to roll at U.S. Open
June 14, 2018
By Ben Everill and Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
- June 14, 2018
- Dustin Johnson was one of four players to finish Thursday's opening round under par at Shinnecock Hills. (Charlie Kane/PGA TOUR)
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – No player has ever won the U.S. Open after winning a PGA TOUR event the week before but world No. 1 Dustin Johnson is as good a candidate as any to break the “curse."
Johnson backed up his dominant win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic with an impressive 1-under 69 to open up his account at Shinnecock Hills.
It was enough to share the lead as one of just four players to shoot under par in blustery conditions.
As such the 2016 U.S. Open champion has assumed favoritism to add a second major to his trophy case.
“Obviously, coming off a win, you've got a lot of confidence. I feel like I've been playing really solid all year, just haven't really been getting a lot out of my rounds,” Johnson said.
Currently sitting second in the FedExCup, Johnson knows a win will take him to the top spot.
He had four birdies and three bogeys on the round, including an impressive hole out from a bunker on the par-3 11th hole.
But the most enjoyable part of his score was his ability to stay focused.
“I'm very pleased with the round. Anything under par on this golf course is very good, especially in the conditions we have today. I felt like from start to finish, it was very difficult,” he said.
“You had to focus on every single shot you hit, putts, everything. You know, it was just difficult all day.”
EARLY ENGLISH EFFORTS … It might be the U.S. Open but a couple of Englishmen looked right at home in the blustery conditions at Shinnecock Hills.
While there was no rain to go with the high winds the pair grew up around, Ian Poulter and former U.S. Open champion Justin Rose certainly felt right at home in the morning wave.
Poulter, who recently won at the Houston Open, put together a fighting 1-under 69 to be tied for the lead on the windswept course.
Rose, the winner at the recent Fort Worth Invitational, showed poise on his way to a 1-over 71, positioning himself extremely nicely (T6) to repeat his efforts from 2013 at Merion.
“I'm aware of the big picture of this tournament and I knew what today was all about,” Rose said after seeing plenty of other big stars put up huge numbers.
“It was about hanging in there. If I'd a shot 72 or 73, it would be a good day's work as well. Today is about eliminating a bad round, and I think it's turned into a really positive start”
Rose hit a very impressive 13 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation despite the high winds gusts of up around 30 miles per hour.
For Poulter it was a welcome change to his usual U.S. Open efforts. A more relaxed attitude was the catalyst.
From his debut at Shinnecock in 2004 Poulter played 12 straight U.S. Opens through 2015 but his best finish was a tie for 12th back in 2006.
“Through most of the U.S. Opens, I haven't enjoyed very many, to be honest. They're difficult. They're hot. They're stressful. Feels like you're pulling teeth every single hole you play,” Poulter said.
“This week, I've changed my mindset. I'm here to enjoy my golf this week, to play freely, to go out and just go play golf. If I hit it in the rough, I hit it in the rough. I'm going to try and make par the hard way and just don't get too bogged down with it.”
PIERCY MAKES MOST OF ALTERNATE SPOT … Scott Piercy had to play 42 holes just to qualify for the U.S. Open. He was the first alternate out of the Memphis, Tennessee, qualifier, and wasn’t added to the field for Shinnecock Hills until Monday.
He teamed with Billy Horschel to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April, but he was so frustrated with his game that he walked off four holes into Wednesday’s practice round. He called his wife and told her that he’d likely be back home in Las Vegas by Saturday.
Now he’s in contention at the U.S. Open. Playing in the day’s first group, Piercy shot a 1-under 69 on a windy day where many of the world’s best players were simply struggling to break 80.
How did Piercy prepare for the first round at Shinnecock Hills after cutting his last practice round short?
“We went home and crushed some pizza,” said Piercy, who’s 34th in the FedExCup. He also watched videos of his swing on Instagram in search of a fix for his ball striking frustrations. He found an old drill that he used in Thursday’s pre-round warmup. He was unsure how well it would transition to the golf course, though.
He called his opening tee shot “a little sketchy” but he made three birdies and just two bogeys in Thursday’s trying conditions.
Piercy was the runner-up at the U.S. Open at Oakmont two years ago, shooting 1 under par at another old-school USGA test. He also struggled with his swing in the days leading up to that U.S. Open but then had the best ball-striking week of his life, he said.
GOOD ON YOU GREGORY ... You could have forgiven England’s Scott Gregory if he had of walked straight off Shinnecock Hills and into the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
But to the 23-year-old’s credit he fronted up to talk to media after becoming the first player to shoot in the 90s at the U.S. Open since Felix Casas shot 92 at Bethpage Black in 2002.
After qualifying out of the English sectionals Gregory struggled to a 22-over 92. He had 10 bogeys, three double bogeys, and two triple bogeys on his card.
REAL U.S. OPEN RETURNS … A year after Brooks Koepka won with a 16 under total at Erin Hills a traditional U.S. Open broke out at Shinnecock. Scores ranged from 1-under 69 to 22-over 92 in the morning wave and averaged more than 6 over. Read more about the troubles for the world’s best players here.
TIGER WOODS – After a disastrous triple bogey start Woods tried to regroup but would ultimately sign for an 8-over 78. Read about his travails here.
JUSTIN THOMAS – The FedExCup leader knuckled down without his best stuff and managed to stay in it with a 4-over 74.
HENRIK STENSON – The Olympic silver medalist is well positioned after a nice 1-over 71.
BROOKS KOEPKA – The defending champion had it under par early before fading to a 5-over 75. His play was pretty solid short of a few three-putts.
RORY McILROY – The Northern Irishman was certainly not immune to the tough conditions, shooting his worst ever U.S. Open score with a 10-over 80.
PHIL MICKELSON – Lefty’s quest for his national Open is going to be very tough after an opening 7-over 77.
JORDAN SPIETH – The 2015 U.S. Open champion and current Open champion battled to an 8-over 78.
JASON DAY – One of the favorites leading into the tournament Day had his worst U.S. Open round in relation to par with a 9-over 79.
PATRICK REED – The only man with a chance to win the grand slam opened with a relatively solid 3-over 73.
RICKIE FOWLER – Fowler ground out a 73 only slipping up twice, with a double bogey and a bogey.
QUOTABLESYou're going to laugh, you're going to cry, and I guess we chose to laugh today, which is obviously the better option.Shoot something in the 60s tomorrow, and I'll be just fine.I'm in a good place mentally. And that definitely helps.
I enjoy the fight. I enjoy the grind … Especially when you're on the right side of the fight. When you get a bit cut up and bruised, it can change pretty quick.For me, it was kind of like, all right, calm the mind. Get this crap out of your head.The pin locations were on the greens, which was nice.
Low round: 1-under 69. Scott Piercy, Ian Poulter, Russell Henley, Dustin Johnson
Fairways: 13/14 – Russell Henley (69), Jason Dufner (70), Justin Rose (71), Matthew Fitzpatrick (73), Matt Parziale (74), Brian Harman (74), Jimmy Walker (75), Sungjae Im (76), Tim Wilkinson (76), Ross Fisher (76), Phil Mickelson (77), Satoshi Kodaira (81),
Greens In Regulation: 14/18 – Henrik Stenson (71)
Strokes Gained: Putting: +6.172 – Brendan Steele (72)
Toughest hole: Par-4 14th (4.808) – Eight birdies, 49 bogeys, 29 double bogeys, eight others.
Easiest hole: Par-5 5th (4.686) – Three eagles, 58 birdies, nine bogeys, three double bogeys.