After menacing forecasts for much of the week, the U.S. Open started Thursday with an uninterrupted round and is on schedule when day breaks on Friday. A restored Pinehurst No. 2 played easier than expected in the opening round, with birdie chances out there and a huge group clustering around even-par or just in the red. Martin Kaymer separated himself from that group late in day with an inward 31 to get to 5-under. His round of 65 was the lowest ever in a U.S. Open at this historic venue. Kramer is three shots clear of the rest of the field and he will be out early in the morning on Friday when scoring conditions are generally better.
The U.S. Open and its broadcast partners offer multiple ways to watch the coverage online during the first two rounds. Unlike the Masters, the USGA isn't beholden to antiquated traditions that dictate limited coverage, so we get TV (and by extension, streaming coverage) all day. It starts at 9:00 a.m. ET, when ESPN goes live and also provides a simulcast stream of all their TV coverage online. In addition to the simulcasts of the TV coverage, there will be two separate and concurrent featured groups streams running on ESPN3.com and USOpen.com. And finally, there's also a featured holes stream, focused on the 9th and 18th, up and running at USOpen.com.
There are four featured groups throughout the day, two on each side of the draw and they're the big names you'd expected to attract the cameras. The PGA Championship trio of Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, and Kaymer all took turns at or near the top of the leaderboard on Thursday. They'll be the featured group in the morning on USOpen.com, and meanwhile ESPN3.com will have the Masters trio of Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, and Charl Schwartzel (who scuffled a great deal compared to the PGA group). The one positive for all these players in the morning draw is that the Village of Pinehurst was hammered with rain late Thursday night, so they should arrive to a softened up course:
That can have a dramatic impact on scoring conditions, especially at a U.S. Open and a venue with small, turtlebacked greens that make it tough to hold approach shots. The rain will certainly make things more receptive.
Friday will be the final time that ESPN carries U.S. Open coverage (for at least the next 12 years). Next year, FOX will take over full broadcasting duties for the USGA championships, including this their most prestigious title. So this will be it for Chris Berman's "happy hour" at the U.S. Open, where the veteran ESPN broadcaster burbles out some thoughts on golf alongside Roger Maltbie. Berman takes a beating on social media during this annual broadcast, but who knows what we're going to get next year with Joe Buck and Greg Norman on a network that's never done a golf broadcast. The broadcast will once again be up against the World Cup, which will has a three-match slate on Friday. But the U.S. Open will be live on ESPN, while soccer will run on ESPN2 (except during the intervening NBC coverage). Here's the full livestream and media schedule for Friday:
Friday's second round coverage (all times Eastern):
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- ESPN
3 p.m. to 5 p.m. -- NBC
5 p.m. to 7 p.m. -- ESPN
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. -- WatchESPN simulcast
3 to 5 p.m. -- NBC Sports LiveExtra simulcast
USOpen.com Featured Groups stream -- 8:02 a.m. (Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Martin Kaymer), 1:36 p.m. (Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Matthew Fitzpatrick)
9 a.m. -- ESPN3 live stream of Nos. 9 and 18
9 a.m. -- ESPN3 featured groups -- 7:40 a.m. (Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott), 1:47 p.m. (Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler)
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 93/208)
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- ESPN Radio