Today’s play at Pebble Beach was a surprise. There were many flash in the pan players and some solid performances. The soft greens was a blessing as most players were able to navigate out of the long rough to leave themselves with very reasonable par putts. With three players tied at minus five, it is still way too early to predict any winner. According to the forecast, the wind is not going to blow all weekend; this news softens the bite of Pebble Beach. I wonder what the USGA is going to do to account for softer conditions and favourable weather?
I watched the rounds of the morning stars and was satisfied that they did not do anything to take themselves out of the running. They were a bit conservative, but I understand why. Graeme McDowell shooting a bogey free round was impressive; as well as Rory McIroy’s putting. Both are in good standing for Friday.
I have to say the I am disappointed with Phil Mickelson. I think he is pressing too much and needs (if he can) to relax and have some fun on the course. It is easy for me to say because I do not know the pressure he is under, but he looks like he is fighting his shot playing ability and as such relying too much on long putts to be successful. As Xander Schauffele said in his post round interview, he hit the ball closer on the back nine and took advantage of the shorter putts. This might be what Phil needs to do.
The afternoon groupings faced slightly more challenging playing conditions. The wind did pickup a bit and as such create some increased difficulty for the players. There were many good scores, but not like the morning. Justin Rose is leading with minus 6 and Aaron Wise shot minus 5, but the rest were a few strokes back. Overall, the scoring is lower than I expected.
I did not see too many aggressive shots throughout the action. Dustin Johnson’s drive a 328 yard par 4 was fun. But other than that, the players stuck to their course management strategy and tried to take advantage of the front nine. The announces kept talking about the players hitting 8 wedges for their second shot, but that did not really seem to matter for most of the field. However, I think the longer irons that set up (or holed out for) 16 eagles in one round is the lowest in the past 50+ years of the US Open are more the story. Nothing followed convention during the first round.
The USGA is likely to react to the low scores and let the course dry up over the next few days. If they do that, then the scores will definitely rise. The narrow fairways and postage stamp size greens at Pebble Beach will be a challenge when dry and if the wind picks up. The only thing the USGA can control is the dryness of the course. However, if both happens…..the I feel sorry for the pros. Playing Pebble Beach will be a nightmare.
The first day is in the books. I will say that many names at the top of the leaderboard were unexpected, but there is still lots of golf left. Given the fact that many less experience players can have a good round, expect the titans of golf to take over the leaderboard on Friday. They have the experience and understanding that one good round might win the championship, but one bad round will definitely loose you the trophy.
What were your thoughts of the action on day 1 of the US Open?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!