After the first round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York, there was a four-way tie for the lead between Russell Henley, Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson, and Scott Piercy, all of whom shot a one-under 69. After 18 holes, Shinnecock had yielded just four scores under par while enacting various forms of torture on the rest of the field.
Yesterday’s round brought the highest U.S. Open scoring average in the last 25 years, in which 29 players failed to break 80. There were some wild scores out there: Jordan Spieth shot his worst round in a major with 78; His marquee group was rounded out by Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, who shot 80 and 77, respectively; Tiger Woods triple-bogeyed his first hole and went on to shoot 78; sectional qualifier Scott Gregory finished the day shooting 92, becoming the first man to shoot over 90 in a U.S. Open since 2002.
Shinnecock is a tough course to begin with, known for its deep rough that hugs close to fairways and greens, and it was rendered even more difficult yesterday by the weather and particularly cruel pin placements. The wind was whipping across the course all day, and that made it even harder for players to attack the pins that were stuck in hard-to-reach corners. All these factors left players facing nightmarish shots, such as this one Bryson DeChambeau had to deal with.
DeChambeau wasn’t the only one to experience a moment of exasperation. From ESPN:
At one point, Mickelson, who along with McIlroy declined to speak with reporters after their rounds, became so exasperated when trying to play his ball from near the 12th green — where twice he had walked away from it and had trouble finding it — that he said to a rules official: “I can’t see the ball when I swing. Is there a rule that allows me to see the ball?’’
Mickelson probably wasn’t exaggerating. This is what the rough does to balls that are unfortunate enough to miss the fairway:
Lighter winds are in the forecast for today and the rest of the weekend, but that still leaves players with the deep rough and the impenetrable greens to deal with. If you prefer to see majors won by talented golfers who tame the course with aggressive, ballsy shots, then this U.S. Open probably isn’t going to be for you. The way things are going so far, it looks like the winner will be the one who best survives.