Playing better in major championships is one of the goals for Russell Henley.
He’s off to a good start in that pursuit after the opening day of the U.S. Open.
Henley shot a 4-under-par 67 to hold the lead in the slow-moving first round Thursday at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
“I would say over the last year, I’ve played the best golf I’ve played consistently in my career. I feel like I have more of a complete game,” Henley said. “But I haven’t finished top 10 in majors or anything. Haven’t really been in the majors. … I want to make that better, play better in the majors.”
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen is also at 4 under, but he has two holes to complete when the first round concludes Friday morning after play was suspended because of darkness. Oosthuizen has been a regular among the top 10 on U.S. Open leaderboards for a decade and he was bogey-free across the final 14 holes he played Thursday.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello were one stroke back.
The first round featured several notable performances, including two-time champion Brooks Koepka holding the lead for a stretch.
Henley, who registered the best round for entrants with morning tee times, had three birdies and one bogey on each of the front nine and back nine. He liked the way the round turned out.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to definitely do that the next three days, but I definitely felt comfortable out there,” he said. “I feel confident with my game. I don’t feel like it’s a huge surprise just because I do feel like I’ve played some good golf in some bigger events in the last year.”
Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Hayden Buckley, Spain’s Jon Rahm and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan go to Friday’s second round at 2 under. Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz, who completed 14 holes, also sits at 2 under.
Koepka and Patrick Rodgers (1 under) both reached 4 under before falling back. Yet Koepka had a positive view of the first day, particularly with his putting stroke.
“It’s just all about discipline in a U.S. Open,” he said. “That’s, I guess, the gist of it.”
Rahm, who earlier this month led the Memorial through three rounds before he was forced to withdraw because of coronavirus protocols, appeared in his first tournament since that unfortunate development June 5. He was erratic, with three birdies and three bogeys in his first six holes.
Schauffele, playing in his hometown, said he liked the course’s condition and the strategy involved in Day 1.
“I felt like it was fair, the setup, but being in the fairway obviously gives you a distance advantage because the ball is running more,” he said. “And firmness of greens protected a lot of the pins. I thought it was a fun day.”
The tournament’s start was delayed 90 minutes because of morning fog, creating adjustments for tee times. There hadn’t been a fog delay in a U.S. Open since the 2004 first round at Shinnecock Hills.
Once play began, there were all sorts of entertaining stretches as the wind played a significant factor compared to practice rounds earlier in the week.
Matthew Wolff, who had been on a break from tournaments because of mental fatigue, posted eight birdies, but he also had three bogeys and two double bogeys. Still, it was notable because in the 2008 U.S. Open on the same course no golfer turned in an entire round with that many birdies.
By the end, Wolff was at 1 under. Following a layoff of more than a month, it was encouraging.
“It is therapeutic,” Wolff said. “My confidence has gone up. I didn’t really have any confidence before I started today.”
Rodgers couldn’t maintain his edge, with bogeys on three of the last five holes leaving him at 1 under.
Nineteen golfers who finished the round were under par.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, who won last year at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, shot 2 over. He was saved by two birdies across the last five holes after a stretch of three straight bogeys.
Phil Mickelson, who won last month’s PGA Championship, had just one birdie and finished 4 over.
“I don’t think my expectations have changed (because of winning the PGA Championship),” said Mickelson, who turned 51 on Wednesday. “But I feel like I have the confidence and ability to play well enough to get in contention, and so I guess my disappointment when I don’t play to that level is a little bit greater.
“I’m optimistic that I’ll put together a good round (Friday),” he said.
Collin Morikawa, who won the last major held in California by capturing the 2020 PGA Championship, also checked in at 4 over. He didn’t have a birdie until No. 1 (he started on the backside). Earlier, he had three bogeys and then an eagle 3 on the 18th.
This is the first U.S. Open at Torrey Pines since Tiger Woods won the 2008 tournament. Woods remains out of action since an automobile accident in February.
–Field Level Media
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