Justin Rose fired an opening round 65, tying the lowest score in a U.S. Open contested at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Rose tied Tiger Woods’ opening round 65 in 2000, when he went on to win by 15 shots, the largest margin of victory in major championship history. Rose did it with his short game, leading the field in both strokes gained around the green and strokes gained putting.
There were five rounds of 66 or lower on Thursday – a total made even more remarkable given the difficulty posed historically in U.S. Opens at Pebble. In the first five U.S. Open Championships held at Pebble Beach, there were a combined total of 2,232 rounds played – and just seven resulted in scores of 66 or lower.
Brooks Koepka shot an opening round 69 in his bid to become the first player in more than a century to win the U.S. Open three years in a row. Koepka led the field in approach shot proximity, and was fifth in strokes gained approach, but just 89th in strokes gained putting on Thursday.
With his opening 69, Koepka became the second player to open with a round in the 60s when trying to win a third straight U.S. Open. Ben Hogan also opened with 69 in 1952, before ultimately finishing runner-up that year. Koepka is the first defending champion to shoot in the 60s in the first round of the U.S. Open since Retief Goosen in 2005.
Louis Oosthuizen shot a sparkling 66 in round one, his lowest opening round in a major championship since the 2010 Open at St Andrews. That week, Louis opened with 65 and never looked back, winning his first major title.
Rory McIlroy opened with 68, a very good omen for the 2011 U.S. Open champion. Each of the previous three times Rory began a major championship with a round of 68 or better, he went on to win.
The late wave of players caught the short end of the stick Thursday. While players in the morning wave had a scoring average of 72.05 and hit 66% of their greens in regulation, players in the afternoon wave averaged 73.35, hitting 54% of the greens.
Rickie Fowler opened with 66, putting himself in position to break through for his first career major title. Fowler has eight top-five finishes in majors in his career. Since the first Masters in 1934, only three players have had more top-fives without a major win: Lee Westwood (11), Harry Cooper (10) and Jay Haas (9).
Tiger shot a 1-under-par 70, his first round under par in the U.S. Open in seven years. It is just the fifth time Woods has opened a U.S. Open with a score under par. Two of the previous four times, he went on to win (2000 and 2002).
If your pick shot -1 or worse on Thursday, look away: 17 of the previous 20 U.S. Open champions have been at or within four strokes of the lead after round one.