Bryson, always out of position on 12 after that errant drive, sheds another shot. He’s +3 and this is beginning to become a concern for the defending champion. He’s got the tools to go on a birdie tear, but doesn’t look in total control of his game today. Meanwhile on 13, Richard Bland comes a cropper on the false front, his approach toppling back down the fairway. He tries again, chipping to 15 feet, but he’s got a job on now to save par.
Oosthuizen is the third member of that particular group, and he’s not fazed by the quacking intruder on 18. Two careful putts, having found the dancefloor in two, and he joins the group at -3. Meanwhile Rory McIlroy comes up short at 10. He chips up to five feet, but his par effort is an uncertain prod that turns apologetically to the right, well before the cup. He slips back to -1, his first mistake of the day.
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (F), Bland (12), Oosthuizen (9*), Detry (8)
This could be a crucial period of play for DeChambeau, who needs to hang on in there. He sends his tee shot at 12, the hardest hole on the course, into deep trouble down the right. Meanwhile some high-jinks on 18, where a duck invades the green. Patrick Cantlay is forced to wait a couple of minutes, while his playing partner Im Sung-jae chases the cute little feathered fellow away with his putter. This is where we need Peter Alliss. I miss Peter Alliss.
It’d been quiet for a while, but things are beginning to heat up now. Thomas Detry makes it three birdies in a row by clipping his tee shot at 8 to three feet, straight at the flag. In goes the putt, and he joins the group tied for second.
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (F), Bland (12), Detry (8) -2: Koepka (F), Schauffele (F), Bezuidenhout (12*), Matsuyama (11), McIlroy (9), Oosthuizen (8*)
Another monster putt drops! This time it’s the Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who rolls a 40-footer across the par-three 11th for a birdie that brings him to -2. But it’s another bogey for his partner Bryson DeChambeau, who sends his tee shot into the sand to the right of the green, splashes out to 12 feet, then fails altogether to hit the par-saving attempt. He drops to +2 again.
Another fine putt from the 2015 runner-up Louis Oosthuizen. A forensic roll from 20 feet on 17 brings him up to -2. It’s back-to-back birdies for Thomas Detry, too, the 28-year-old Belgian making them at 6 and 7. But never mind that! Because here’s 48-year-old Richard Bland, who won his first European Tour title only one month ago! He’s made birdie at the long par-four 12th, sending a tramliner into the cup from 30 feet to grab a share of second!
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (F), Bland (12) -2: Koepka (F), Schauffele (F), Bezuidenhout (12*), McIlroy (9), Oosthuizen (8*), Detry (7)
Bogey for Hayden Buckley at 12. The 25-year-old debutant had hung in there at -2 for a good while, but he slips back to -1. Par meanwhile for Rory McIlroy at 9, though he’s one dimple away from draining a 20-footer for birdie; he turns in 33.
Pars today finally for Jon Rahm, at 16 and 17. The latter required a 12-foot saver; he punches the air gently with relief as the ball drops. He remains at level par. Back on 2, Bezuidenhout – who had saved his par on 1 with a fine 20-footer – drops one after coming up short with his second. He’s back in the pack tied for fourth at -2.
Bubba’s left with a 55-footer for eagle. He very nearly drains it. Birdie will do. He’s level par. Another magnificent putt, on the par-three 16th by Louis Oosthuizen, who guides in a 20-foot left-to-right slider for a birdie that brings him up to -1.
One of the shots of the day by Bubba Watson. Driver off the deck at the monster par-five 9th. He sets it out miles right, then cuts it back into the heart of the green. He spins in delight as someone, with classic cowboy yeehaw intonation, yells Bub-buh! from the gallery. Even in the DeChambeau era, there’s nobody quite like Bubba.
McIlroy sends his tee shot at 8 over the flag and leaves himself the Bryson Putt. Unlike the reigning champion, he totally misreads it, the ball breaking right to an embarrassing degree. He leaves himself a tricky four footer for his par, but makes it. Meanwhile his partner DJ races a long birdie effort six feet past the flag, but holes the one coming back. That avoids back-to-back bogeys, the big man having dropped one on 7 while McIlroy was chipping in for his birdie.
Still no par today for Jon Rahm. He bogeys 15, and the pre-tournament favourite is back to level, after three birdies, three bogeys. All very entertaining, if doubtless frustrating for the big man, who is still hunting down that maiden major.
The biggest move of the afternoon is made by Christian Bezuidenhout at 18. From 93 yards, he clips a three-bounce wedge just past the cup, the ball then gripping and spinning back gently into the cup. Eagle! That’s his second chip-in of the day, after bundling one in from the back of the par-five 13th, and he grabs a share of second! Meanwhile there are more sensational scenes on 7, where an out-of-position Rory McIlroy, atop a grassy knoll to the left of the green, lobs onto the putting surface, the ball curving left to right and into the cup! He raises a fist that’s half-triumph, half-disbelief. He flashes a smile of high amusement. It’s suddenly all happening at the top of the leader board!
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (F), Bezuidenhout (9*) -2: Koepka (F), Schauffele (F), Buckley (10), Bland (9), McIlroy (7)
Paul Casey moves into red figures after tickling in a seven-footer with a massive right-to-left curl on 16. This is his 68th start in a major. No wins yet. Lucky 69? He’s going round with his equally long-in-the-tooth compatriot Lee Westwood, 86 barren starts and counting. Westwood is level par through his first seven holes, and both of the English veterans are in good nick as they pursue that elusive dream.
DeChambeau turns it around with a gorgeous putt on 8! Having sent his tee shot over the flag to 15 feet, he dribbles his birdie putt back towards the cup, the ball gently oscillating this way and that, finally picking up some speed and toppling into the cup from the left. That’s a lovely delicate touch, and the crowd respond with one of the biggest roars on the course for a while.
The 2016 champion Dustin Johnson has been going along nicely. Six holes, six pars. As for his playing partners: Rory makes it five pars in a row to remain at -1, but it’s three bogeys in a row for Justin Rose, at 4, 5 and now 6. He’s +3 and already a repeat of his Merion heroics looks unlikely.
The golfing gods owe Jon Rahm, after that Covid-related blow at the Memorial. He rattles in a 30-footer for birdie at 14, and he’s yet to make a par through his first five holes. He’s started his US Open bid thus: birdie, bogey, bogey, birdie, birdie. He’s -1.
DeChambeau does pretty well to splash out to ten feet, having shortsided himself. But the par putt breaks off to the right, just as it looked like dropping, and the defending champion is heading in the wrong direction at +2. Meanwhile his playing partner Matsuyama nearly chips in, only to lip out, then miss the par putt. He slips back to level par.
DeChambeau is wearing some fetching stars-and-stripes shoes, though his game isn’t quite so ship-shape today. He yanks his drive at 7 towards a concessions stand, the ball caroming off a fence and back towards a cart path. He lucks out with a good lie, only to dunk his wedge into the bunker guarding the front right of the green. He could do with a sandy save here, because this round is threatening to get a little bit out of control.
Rory McIlroy has been trundling along nicely since that opening birdie at 1. He’s had a few looks at another birdie since. None of his putts have seriously threatened to drop, but he’s never looked like missing out on par either. He remains -1 through 5. Stewart Cink meanwhile hands back the shot he’d picked up at 13 with bogey at 14, slipping back to level par.
San Diego buses dept. Having waited all this time for one of the second wavers to reach -2, here comes Hayden Buckley in short order. The 25-year-old from Chattanooga has choo-chooed his way into the top four with birdies at 4 and 8. Currently a regular on the Korn Ferry Tour, this is his US Open debut, having made it through qualifying. A good job of seizing the day, right here.
-4: Henley (F) -3: F Molinari (F), Cabrera Bello (F) -2: Koepka (F), Schauffele (F), Buckley (8), Bland (7)
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.
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