Early this morning (maybe too early for some), the U.S. Open got underway in the Sandhills of North Carlolina. Here's a look at some of the morning story lines as the first half of the field makes their way around a restored Pinehurst No. 2.
Phil Mickelson - The eyes of the golf nation are upon him and, so far, Phil is delivering in his attempt to win his first U.S. Open. Mickelson got off to a great start on No. 10 (his first hole). Playing the par-5 as a three-shot hole, Lefty stuffed a wedge for a kick-in birdie to begin his week. On the 14th, Phil again took aim on approach and knocked one close for another birdie.
But the six-time runner-up gave one right back the next hole. It was a perfect example of just what makes Pinehurst so difficult. Mickelson's ball landed in the center of the green, but rolled right off the turtleback putting surface. His pitch attempt did more of the same as Mickelson was attempting to hit a spinning chip shot that would settle near the hole. Instead, it rolled off the other side of the green. Bogey.
Overall, it was a great opening nine for Phil Mickelson and he avoided the blowup that's always lurking at a U.S. Open to stay in the hunt.
Jordan Spieth - Speaking of in the hunt, Spieth seems to be near the top of every leaderboard recently. He's just a shot off the pace and continuing to reset expectations at each of the game's biggest events.
Rory McIlroy - The oddsmakers' favorite struggled early, making a couple bogeys on a frustrating opening nine.
Brandt Snedeker - It's been an underwhelming season for Snedeker, but he flirted with an opening nine 30. A 4-under outward stretch is a good way to start any tournament, especially a U.S. Open. It's a little surprising considering Sneds is playing with a new putter for the first time in eight years. He's started to come back to the field on his second nine, and got into some trouble in one of Pinehurst's large fairway bunkers.
That was part of a big tumble back down to earth for Snedeker, who is now at even-par.
Matthew Fitzpatrick - The young amateur, playing with his countrymen Justin Rose, appears unfazed by the stage thus far. He's under par and playing well in what will reportedly be his final event as an amateur.
The Course - The course is a little softer than we might have expected this morning, and we're getting some red numbers during the morning wave. But if Pinehurst gives, it also takes away. A lot of the shots that players would normally hit simply won't work this week. Here's the aforementioned Phil chip shot that resulted in a bogey for one of the best short-game players in the history of golf.
Here's a snapshot of the leaderboard early in the first round:
|T2||FITZPATRICK, Matthew (a)||-2||11*|
|T13||HURLEY III, Billy||E||9|
|T13||GOSS, Oliver (a)||E||9|
|T13||MCNEALY, Maverick (a)||E||8*|
|T25||JIMENEZ, Miguel Angel||1||10|
|T43||SHELTON, Robby (a)||2||7|
|T53||CAMPBELL, Brian (a)||3||6|
|T70||GRIMMER, Will (a)||5||7*|
|T76||MCIVER, Brandon (a)||7||8*|