Here’s another 48-year-old making hay while the sun still shines. The British Masters champion Richard Bland strokes his approach at 7 from 150 yards to 12 inches. That birdie will take him into a share of fourth spot at -2, alongside Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele. He’s the first of the second wave to reach this mark.
The 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink, 48, is enjoying something of an Indian summer. He’s won twice on Tour this season, and has started briskly at his first US Open since 2017. He rakes in a 25-footer from the back of 13 to join a 15-strong group at -1.
Four hours to sunset in San Diego, then, give or take the odd minute. Chances are the first round won’t get finished tonight.
Spectacular back-to-back birdies by Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The 27-year-old South African, who hovered around during the Masters and the PGA without quite sustaining any sort of bid, chips in from the back of 13, then screws a wedge from 130 yards to 18 inches on 14. He’s -1. None of the late starters have yet to get as high as -2.
Rahm can’t get up and down from a bunker at the side of the par-three 11th, and he hands his opening birdie back to the field. Meanwhile DeChambeau responds to those back-to-back bogeys by obliterating a drive down the middle of 5. A huge smile spreads across his face; he enjoyed that, as did the gallery. Bogey for Jordan Spieth meanwhile at 12, and he’s +1.
From off the front of 4, Bryson rolls a perfectly weighted long putt pin high. Problem is, it veers seven feet to the left, and he can’t make the par saver. The lip-out drops him to +1.
DeChambeau flays his drive at 4 into the thick rough down the right. He expects his wedge to come out hot, and is surprised when his bump out stops short of the green. He’ll have some work to do if he’s to scramble his par. Back on 3, Sergio creams his iron into the heart of the green, using the camber to bring his ball back to the cup. He’s left with a 12-footer for birdie … but leaves it an inch wide left. He stays at level par.
Cabrera Bello pars 9 to sign for a lovely opening 68. Adam Hadwin pars 18 for a 70. That’s the end of the morning wave, as far as the top end of the leader board goes, anyway.
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (F) -2: Koepka (F), Schauffele (F)
Some bother for the defending champion at 3. DeChambeau’s ball didn’t make it all the way down the bank to the penalty area, but a tight lie foxes him and he slam-dunks his second into the thickly covered bank. He clips a fine third to a couple of feet, limiting the damage to bogey. His partner Matsuyama, having fired his tee shot straight at the flag to six feet, strokes in for birdie. He’s now -1; Bryson slips back to level par. As does Sergio, who immediately hands back the birdie with bogey at 2.
McIlroy makes his birdie putt on 1! A gimlet-eyed roll into the cup from 15 feet. What a start! Seeing he’s recently had a habit of playing his way out of the majors on Thursday, that’s surely going to settle a few nerves. Pars for DJ and Rose. Rahm tidies up for his birdie at 10.
Jon Rahm is the favourite going into this week. Not only is he the form horse – he’d have walked the Memorial had he not tested positive for Covid-19 when six ahead after 54 holes – he’s also got one hell of a record here at Torrey Pines. Since 2017, he’s -51. The next cab on the rank is Tony Finau at -46, then Patrick Reed at -38. He opens up his bid by sending his second at 10 to eight feet.
Birdie for DeChambeau at 2. He’d crashed a drive down the left of the fairway, then wedged close for a sure-fire birdie. But he’s in trouble at 3, sending his tee shot way out to the left of the 192-yard par-three. There’s a penalty area down there. Bryson’s old pal Brooks found it earlier this afternoon. Strange old game, eh. Back on 1, McIlroy muscles a fine wedge from the thick stuff into the heart of the green. It’s all beginning to happen.
Here comes a glamour group consisting of three former winners: the 2016 champion Dustin Johnson, 2011 victor Rory McIlroy, and 2013’s Justin Rose. The latter is the only one who finds the fairway at 1; DJ is in the semi-rough to the left, while McIlroy has disappeared his ball into the deep filth down the right. In the group up ahead, Sergio birdies, holing out from the bunker guarding the front left of the green! And on 11, the young left-handed South African Garrick Higgo, who won his first Tour title four days ago at the Palmetto, continues his hot streak with an early birdie. A few of the late starters beginning to make waves.
No birdies for DeChambeau or Matsuyama at 1. Both went close with their birdie efforts, but no cigar. Meanwhile some admin: Collin Morikawa ended up with a very disappointing 75, while Gary Woodland, Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland have had to settle for bang-average 74s. None of them are out of it yet, but they need to pull something out of the bag tomorrow if they’re to seriously compete.
No left-hander has ever won the US Open. Scotland hasn’t had a winner since Willie Macfarlane in 1925. Could Bob MacIntyre end these long waits? Well, he’s just caressed his second at 2 straight at the flag, from 90 yards to a couple of feet. A birdie will take the 24-year-old from Oban – who already has a tie for sixth at the Open and a tie for 12th at the Masters on his CV – up to -1. He’s alongside Adam Hadwin on the leaderboard, the Canadian having just bogeyed 17.
With the afternoon wave now taking to the course, there’s a bit of fresh meat on the leaderboard. Matt Wallace birdies 1, as does his compatriot Richard Bland, who at 48 won his first European Tour title after a quarter of a century of trying last month at the British Masters. He holes out from sand on 1 to start only his second appearance at the US Open – he missed the cut at Bethpage Black in 2009 – in style.
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (15*) -2: Koepka (F), Schauffele (F), Hadwin (F) -1: E Molinari (F), Gomez (F), Rodgers (F), Wolff (F), Fitzpatrick (F), Hatton (F), Bland (2), Wallace (1)
DeChambeau swishes a gentle wedge out of the fairway bunker at 1 and sets up a 12-foot birdie chance. Easy as that. He’s going round this afternoon with the Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who having found thick rough down the right with his tee shot, bumps a marvellous second into the front of the green, using the camber on the left to bring his ball back to 20 feet. From where he was, finding the green was good going; setting up a birdie chance is simply magnificent.
Daniel Berger hasn’t really transferred his talents to the majors, apart from that one 54-hole lead at this tournament in 2018. The 28-year-old Floridian has started well this week, though, recovering from bogeys at 2 and 5 with birdies at 6, 13 and 15. He signs for a fine 70. Tyrrell Hatton is also back in the hutch with a 70.
Here comes the defending champion Bryson DeChambeau! He bomb-and-gouged his way to a six-shot victory last September at Winged Foot, and he’s promised to take the same approach at Torrey Pines. Hey, if you can saunter to victory at a US Open after hitting just 41 percent of the fairways, a tournament low for a winner, there must be something in the plan. He’s warmly greeted by the gallery, and flashes a smile to match. Then he lashes his driver into a bunker down the left of 1. Entertainment ahoy, one way or another!
A six-foot par effort by Matt Fitzpatrick slips by the hole at 18. A disappointing end to an otherwise impressive 70. Xander Schauffele pars 9 to end the day with a two-under 69, while his playing partner Phil Mickelson misses a ten-foot birdie effort by a mile, pulling it wide right. The record-breaking PGA champion ends up with a fairytale-compromising 75. He’s +4.
Kevin Na has had a day to forget – he’s currently +7 – but he’s just played what could be the shot of the week. Left of the green at the par-three 16th, behind a bunker and shortsided, he viciously whipped his wedge through the thick rough, sending his ball about six miles into the air before landing it softly three feet from the flag. That is a breathtaking piece of skill, from a player who may have decided just to go for everything, and to hell with the consequences. That was great fun.
Birdie for Francesco Molinari at 18. That’s a great finish, not least because he’d found himself in a greenside bunker, shortsided, and splashed gorgeously to five feet. That’s a 68, and it’s great to see the 2018 Open champ back after such a long barren spell. Given his brother Edoardo, a couple of shots further back, hasn’t played in a major since the 2015 Open, this is quite the renaissance event for the Molinaris.
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (14*)
Russell Henley sends his second at the par-five 18th to the back of the green, takes two putts for his birdie, and signs his name to a 67. He has sole ownership of the lead at -4. A couple of groups behind, Matt Fitzpatrick birdies 17 to move to -2. And back on 9, it’s a par for Brooks Koepka who will be happy enough with a 69, despite running out of gas a little on the way home.
-4: Henley (F) -3: Cabrera Bello (13*) -2: Koepka (F), F Molinari (17), Fitzpatrick (17), Schauffele (17*), Hadwin (14)
Matthew Wolff ends his round par-par. Very strange, given he’d only made three over his first 16 holes. An absurd rollercoaster of a round that finishes with a perfectly respectable 70.
Phil Mickelson’s chances of repeating his jaw-dropping victory at last month’s PGA Championship, and completing the career slam by winning the one major that’s eluded him, look pretty slim already. Back to back bogeys at 6 and 7 have seen yesterday’s birthday boy, 51, slip to +4. His putter is stone cold, and the rest of his game has been pretty wayward as well, something you simply can’t get away with on a US Open track. Hey, he’ll always have Kiawah, and in any case six runners-up finishes on the CV is a much more romantic story than one win, right? Perfection is overrated.
Patrick Rodgers is denied a closing birdie when his straight 15-footer for birdie on 18 somehow lips out. So unfortunate. He signs for a 70, and while he’ll surely be a little irritated, having reached -4 at one point, a player ranked 236 in the world should be pretty happy with his day’s work once he takes a step back.
Fabian Gomez of Argentina is making his US Open debut at the tender age of 42. In golf, all is never lost. He’s played the other three majors in the past, missing the cut every time, but this is shaping up to be different: he finishes strongly with birdies at 15 and 18, and he joins Edoardo Molinari in the very, very, very, very early clubhouse lead at -1. Elsewhere, Marcus Armitage, who effectively qualified by winning the European Open a couple of weeks ago, signs on his debut at a mere 33 for a level-par 71.
Seve’s Special Book is full of great advice. Cabrera Bello whips high into the air from the thick rough, over the bunker to three feet, and tidies up for a wonderfully scrambled par. He stays in a share of the lead with Henley at -3. Koepka meanwhile makes his par putt on 8, no more than that cleverly improvised chip deserved. He stays at -2, and that might be a momentum shifter having recently made a couple of bogeys, and with a par-five to finish.
Back-to-back bogeys for Patrick Rodgers at 16 and 17. That follows the dropped stroke at 14. Three shots shipped in four holes, and from the top of the leaderboard at -4, he’s slipped back into the pack at -1. Meanwhile Francesco’s older brother Edoardo is back in the clubhouse having shot a very fine 70, something that didn’t look on the cards when he’d doubled 6 to drop to +3. But he nearly aced 8, his tee shot stopping 11 inches shy of the cup, and kept it going in the right direction from there. A great day for the Molinaris so far!
Birdie for Francesco Molinari at 16! He’s not had much of a season, having struggled with a back injury, so it’s good to see the 2018 Open champion back to something near his best. He’s one off the lead at -2, alongside Brooks Koepka, though for how much longer is a moot point. Koepka dumps his tee shot at the par-three 8th into deep rough beside a bunker at the front of the green. He’s forced to stand in the trap, three feet below the ball, and grip down on the shaft. He manufactures a sensational chip to six feet, quite the result from there, but that’s still a tester to scramble his par.
This par-three 3rd is one hell of a hole, the wind getting up to all sorts of mischief, grabbing the ball and throwing it this way and that. It holds Cabrera Bello’s tee shot up so much that it lands shy of the bunker guarding the front of the green. Chipping from thick rough and with not much green to play with, that’ll be quite the up and down from there. Time to dip into Seve’s Big Book of Escapes, issued to all Spanish golfers the minute they show an interest as kids.
Koepka doesn’t get hold of his second from the gallery down the left of 7. Short of the green, he duffs his chip, and ends up with a second bogey in five holes. He’s -2. Heading in the other direction, Rafa Cabrera Bello, who follows that lovely chip-in for eagle on 18 with birdie at 2. He grabs a share of the ever-changing lead. Just a dozen players are currently under par, which is only right at a US Open.
-3: Henley (16), Cabrera Bello (11*) -2: Rodgers (16), Koepka (16*), Fitzpatrick (14), Schauffele (14*) -1: E Molinari (17), Wolff (16*), F Molinari (15), Hatton (14), Kokrak (14*), Hadwin (12)
Thanks Will. I’m back just in time to see Matthew Wolff run up a double from that awful position down the right of 7. His round is nothing short of absurd: 16 holes played, eight birdies, three bogeys and two double bogeys. Just three pars. The vicissitudes of the US Open, ladies and gentlemen. He’s still -1, mind, just a couple off the lead.
Koepka pings his tee shot into the fans, landing next to a man eating a burrito or something similar. He might not be in the lead by the end of this hole. Anyway, Scott is back and knows stuff about golf.
It is a three way tie at the top.
-3: Koepka, (15) Henley (15), Wolff (15*)
Wolff at the seventh finds a tree, which is ill-advised. On the upside it bounces in the right direction for him, rather than end up in the penalty area. Fleetwood plays a stunner from the fairway within a few inches of the hole. He is looking in decent nick when not on the tee.
Schauffele goes back to -3 with a lovely putt from the edge of the green on five. Four sit in joint lead now.
Justin Thomas is a perfect shot just to the left of the fairway to a few yard from the hole at the sixth. Koepka’s shot from the other side of the fairway goes just beyond the hole, which is a decent result for him. He cannot drain his putt for a birdie, however, to take an outright lead. Thomas does birdie the hole.
From Wiki: “The basic (and most popular) version of Hamburger Helper is a box of dried pasta with seasoning that is designed to be cooked with ground beef. Hamburger Helper offers a variety of flavours, including Lasagne, Cheeseburger Macaroni, Bacon Cheeseburger, Philly Cheesesteak, and others.” Sounds awful.
The joint leaders
-3: Koepka, (14*) Rodgers (15), Wolff (15*)
Wolff gets a par 4 on the on his 15th hole of the day to stay in joint lead. He looks in pretty confidence mood, too.
Koepka on six sends the ball to the right of the fairway but he’s not in a bad position as that rough is reasonable.
Paul McGinley arrives eating his lunch. I hope it’s Hamburger Helper.
Koepka goes out of the fairway bunker on five. He ends up with an extremely long putt which goes closer than many expect but drifts wide of the hole.
Wolff is getting better by the hole, as he whacks a perfect drive down the middle on six. Fleetwood follows in his footsteps to find the fairway for only the fourth time in 12 holes today, which is frankly underwhelming. Fleetwood then hits it into the rough just off the green, he seems to enjoy making things hard for himself.
Cabrera Bello plays a stunning chip out of the rough and into the hole on the 18th for -2.
Up close and personal.
The leaders: -3: Koepka, (13) Rodgers (14), Wolff (14*)
Schauffele gets himself out of the bunker with a fine shot. Mickelson is also in the sand, but he has no issue extricating himself either. Someone with issues is Fleetwood who chips from one bit of rough to another, much to his chagrin. Schauffele fails to get par as his putt kisses the rim on 11 to remove him from the top section of the leaderboard. Wolff becomes joint leader in Schauffele’s place.
Ancer nails a decent put from distance on 11 to secure a par. You’ve got to make sure you’re in fine putting form when the wind is playing havoc with drives.