Recap of the day
Morning wave: Scott Piercy got his nose out in front early on, but late errors on both nines limited his early clubhouse target to 4-under-par 67 and it was soon bettered by Rickie Fowler who made three early birdies and maintained the pace to post 5-under-par 66. He was soon joined by championship specialist Xander Schauffele and Louis Oosthuizen. Sepp Straka, Emiliano Grillo, Gary Woodland and, most notably of all, Rory McIlroy settled for 68. Dustin Johnson could do no better then a level-par 70 and reigning AT&T Pro-am champion Phil Mickelson limped to a 1-over 72.
Afternoon session: Brooks Koepka and Viktor Hovland provided the fireworks early in the afternoon as they both roared out to 4-under thru 6. Both slowed their pace to finish on 2-under 69. It was Nate Lashley who impressed most. Playing his first round in a major championship, he managed a blemish-free 67 to post inside the top 10. That was until Justin Rose came through late and seemingly couldn't miss on the greens. He went 15-for-15 from inside 15 feet and needed just 22 putts to make his way around today. That resulted in the best round of the day, a 6-under 65.
Notables: -3 Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari -2 Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, -1 Jason Day, Paul Casey, Tiger Woods, Evs Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, +1 Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, +2 Justin Thomas,
Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini's hole-in-one at the 12th. The 45th in U.S. Open history and eighth at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Friday weather forecast
Much the same as Thursday with early cloud breaking out into late morning and afternoon sun. Temperatures will again be in the mid-50s. The wind is expected to be similar too, but only in strength, at around 12mph – the direction will be WNW rather than WSW.
Leaders after 18 holes
Justin Rose (65) - Found exactly half the fairways and half the greens, but went 15-for-15 from inside 15 feet and needed just 22 putts to make his way around.
Rickie Fowler (66) – A "pretty stress-free 66" said Fowler after piping 13-of-14 fairways, pelting 15 greens and outpacing a lone bogey with six birdies. Ranked 1st for SG: Tee-To-Green when the afternoon wave started but only 63rd SG: Putting.
Xander Schauffele (66) – A walk-off eagle saw Schauffele home in 31 after an even-par front nine. Hit 12-of-14 fairways but took a different route to Fowler from there, finding just 11 greens but ranking 1st for SG: Putting when he handed in his card. Also started with 66 when T5 in the 2017 U.S. Open.
Louis Oosthuizen (66) – The runner-up at Chambers Bay holed out from 95 yards for eagle-2 at his second hole of the day (No. 11) and rode it to a 66 with four birdies against a lone bogey. A balanced attack which included 3-for-3 saves from sand.
Fate of the favourites
Brooks Koepka (69) – Looked like a potential runaway victory when he opened with birdies in four of his first six holes. Slowed his pace at the day wore on with three bogeys and one birdie on the final 10 holes. Nearly lost his tee ball on the closing, par-5 18th despite clubbing down off the tee. Will be glad to regroup before a morning tee time on Friday.
Dustin Johnson (71) – Four bogeys from DJ today, wiping out four birdies. Found just ten greens in regulation and failed to get up and down three times. Cold putter is a concern.
Rory McIlroy (68) – Bogeyed his opening hole but played the next 17 in 4-under despite not making a birdie on any of the three par 5s. Had to settle for just 9-of-14 fairways and 12 greens but short game was sharp.
Tiger Woods (70) – Sputtered through most of the round with less-than-his-best in the iron department. A hot putter held his round together including a clutch par save from 30 feet at the par-5 14th.
Rickie Fowler (66): “I stuck to the gameplan today. The execution was very good. I missed one fairway and made some good putts. A pretty stress-free 66. This course allows you to play aggressive if you want but you can also lay the ball back. It's just about sticking with what we've decided to do."
Scott Piercy (67): “Conditions were really fair. You can hit it on the greens. It's receptive. One thing I did really good today is leave it on the correct side of the hole so I didn't really have a lot of downhill sliders."
Rory McIlroy (68): “It's very, very soft out there. Very benign. I needed to get out there and shoot something in the 60s today, it's going to get harder as the week goes on so I'm happy with my work today. The greens are absolutely perfect. I don't see them deteriorating. It's hard to describe how different they are from nine years ago.”
Jon Rahm (69): “It's about as good a US Open set-up as I've seen for a first round. Wind didn't blow, so it made it reasonable for us to be able to shoot the score and to get after the start and keep it going and play good. I would have taken around even par.”
Jason Day (70): "We worked very, very hard and I feel like things are only going to get better. I'm out there trying to hit the certain shots that he's calling for, and it seems like it's working pretty nice."
Justin Rose (65): "You're going to make mistakes in the U.S. Open, but if you have a reason to stay patient, I think it's a lot easier to let those mistakes roll off your back and continue doing what you've been doing to get on top of the leaderboard."
Road to victory at the U.S. Open
2018 Brooks Koepka – R1: 46th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
2017 Brooks Koepka – R1: 4th, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2016 Dustin Johnson – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2015 Jordan Spieth – R1: 7th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2014 Martin Kaymer – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
Notes: In the last 20 years, no player was further back than Brooks Koepka in 2018 - outside the top 40 and six off the lead. Webb Simpson was also six adrift at Olympic in 2012 although tied 23rd after 18. In the two recent U.S. Opens at Pebble, Tiger led the way in 2000 after an opening 65 while Graeme McDowell was tied 10th and just two back following round one in 2010.
Fate of the first-round leaders the U.S. Open – where did they finish?
2017 Dustin Johnson – 3rd, Russell Henley – 25th, Ian Poulter – 25th, Scott Piercy – 45th
2017 Rickie Fowler – 5th
2016 Andrew Landry – 15th
2015 Dustin Johnson – 2nd, Henrik Stenson – 27th
2014 Martin Kaymer – 1st
Notes: Martin Kaymer at Pinehurst was the last R1 leader to take victory. Rory also managed it in 2011 while Tiger did it here at Pebble in 2000 and again at Bethpage in 2002. Recent first-round leaders have had a mixed time with four of the last eight finishing outside the top 20.
Focus on – Xander Schauffele
The 25-year-old is playing just his tenth major championship and yet he already owns six top 20s, four of them T6 or better, with his best effort T2 in both last year’s Open and this season’s Masters. Looking closer at his record in this week’s championship reveals a genuine fondness for whatever examination the U.S.G.A. throws at him. Not only was he T5 at Erin Hills in 2017 and T6 last year at Shinnecock Hills, but he was inside the top 20 at the end of those eight laps no less than seven times and he made that 8-of-9 with his Thursday circuit of 66.
Focus on – Phil Mickelson
Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods both won the regular Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the same season they took victory in the U.S. Open at Pebble. So could Phil repeat the feat this week and finally land this title after finishing runner-up six times? Looking back at those second places, Mickelson was no worse than seventh after 18 holes so marked our cards early. Today? A 1-over 71 and way down the field. The fairytale will need a big twist from here.
Focus on – Louis Oosthuizen
With his opening lap of 66 the South African finds himself in unusual, if not quite unchartered, territory at the U.S. Open. Back in 2011 he carded a first round 69 at Congressional to lie T4, but otherwise he has struggled with his first 18 holes. In his nine previous starts he has carded 74 and 75 twice and three times needed 77 blows. The latter happened in 2015 at Chambers Bay when he responded with 66-66-67 to finish tied second. In all, his Thursday 66 beat his previous round one average by 8.33 strokes.