Thomas takes lead on soft Foot
The Associated Press
MAMARONECK, N.Y. — All that hype over how tough the U.S. Open can be at Winged Foot. All that history of so many scores over par.
Thursday brought a surprise: All those red numbers.
Justin Thomas led the way with six birdies and only one bogey from a bad lie in the bunker, finishing with a 25-foot birdie putt that he barely touched for a 5-under 65.
It was the lowest score in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, which is hosting the Open for the sixth time dating to 1929. And it was worth only a one-shot lead over Patrick Reed, Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Matthew Wolff, the 21-year-old Californian making his U.S. Open debut.
Rory McIlroy, who has been struggling to get off to a decent start in the majors, opened with a 67 and tried to contain his disappointment it wasn’t lower. He had a pair of three-putts that held him back, one on the 329-yard sixth where he hit driver onto the middle of the green and had to settle for par.
McIlroy was among those two shots behind on a scoreboard filled with red numbers, an unusual site for Winged Foot. In the previous five U.S. Opens, a total of 17 players were under par after the first round. On Thursday, there were 21.
No one believes it will stay that way. Still, this was the day to take advantage.
“It’s helpful with three days left, but it’s not even remotely close to being over,” Thomas said of his best start in a U.S Open or any major. “As great of a round and fun as it was, it’s over with now, and I need to get over it.”
Thomas went into the week saying it was a “different kind of fun” to grind over pars, to hit middle irons to difficult pins instead of the low scoring at so many other tournaments. This was fun, too.
Patrick Reed and Will Zalatoris made a hole-in-one on No. 7, and Zalatoris somehow missed another ace on No. 13. Spanish amateur Eduard Rousand holed out for eagle from the first fairway with his second shot in his U.S. Open debut. Louis Oosthuizen holed out for eagle on second fairway.
“Yeah, 65 is fun no matter where you play, especially at Winged Foot,” Thomas said. “I was in a really good frame of mind, and I was focused. I just was sticking to my routine and playing every shot, as opposed to getting ahead of myself. It’s one of those rounds where … next thing you know, you make the putt on 18, you’re done for the day.”
He played with Tiger Woods and PGA champion Collin Morikawa, who couldn’t get done fast enough.
Woods was in five bunkers through five holes and then appeared to steady himself with three straight birdies around the turn to get under par, but only briefly. He made three bogeys coming in, still had a chance to post a reasonable score and then let it get away.