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The U.S. Open has been a messy bore, but there's still hope at Oakmont

The first round of the U.S. Open ... well, it sucked. But there's plenty of time to get it back.

David Cannon/Getty Images

The golf gods owe us something over the next two and a half days at the national championship. Almost 33 hours after it started on Thursday morning, the first round of the 116th U.S. Open has finally come to a close at Oakmont.

We were set up for a monster edition of the season's second major. The best players in the world, in particular the Big Three, had won in the previous month coming into the event. Oakmont looked absolutely perfect -- brutal and punishing -- but so pretty. But Thursday ground those plans and hype to a halt with non-stop rain that left many players sitting around doing nothing and much of the Oakmont property a muddy mess. There's still hope, of course, but we are sputtering out of the gate.

Absent Stars

It's never good for the audience when the weather leaves some of the biggest stars completely out of view for whole days at a time. That's what we got these last two days. Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and world No. 1 Jason Day never even had to show up on Thursday and on Friday. Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler cleaned up only a few holes just after breakfast and then went home for the day.

These are the dangers of a 156-man field playing in this region of the country during mid-June. The USGA knows it and has learned how to expertly handle it, even if it takes all the pop out of the start of their championship. It's a logistical challenge even before any weather disruption. I know I wanted to spend my Friday afternoon watching Rory and Jordan but they're nowhere to be found. That's not ideal for anyone involved.

The prevailing notion on the grounds is that they (Rickie, Rory, Jordan et al) got the bad end of the draw, playing an opening round that was a constant start-and-stop in rainy conditions only to then also get dried out super quick in second-round conditions on Saturday morning.

The Big Three take a tumble

In addition to those big names missing for whole days, they're also not playing particularly well when they're actually out there. The rain was supposed to soften things up and let of these superstars attack a course that's usually not attackable. Instead, the favorable scoring conditions left us with Andrew Landry (a cool story in his own right) as our leader.

Of the so-called Big Three, only defending champ Spieth managed to hang on and turn in a respectable (2-over) scorecard. And even he had his frustrating club-tossing moments early in a Thursday morning round that was thin on highlights.

The two big hitters, Day and McIlroy, were the favorites at the start of the week and both took an L in the opening round. Rory started Friday morning's resumption aggressive, pulling driver and trying to go big over the final few holes of a soft golf course. The rain was supposed to play right into his strengths, setting up a receptive course that he can blast away on in the same way he did in that record-setting win at Congressional.

It was a shock to see Rory in the first round get sloppy even with irons off the tees, and he threw away more shots on Friday morning before posting a 7-over 77. That matches his worst ever U.S. Open round.

Then there's Day, who gave us no reason to doubt his ability to pick his spots like he did at The Players and shoot right back up the leaderboard again. The world No. 1 has Rory-type distance and also is the top putter on the PGA Tour this year -- that's a combination that will play anywhere. The Aussie sat around all day on Thursday, then showed up Friday and posted his worst major round since 2013, a 6-over 76.

We're accustomed to seeing Rory occasionally check out or get sideways during a round, but Day struggling in the way he did was completely unpredictable.

Spieth is our best hope for a Big Three presence on the first page of the leaderboard but he hasn't exactly lit it up either. All these guys won in statement fashion since the Masters and we thought this classic track would play to their strengths in different ways. We're just 18 holes in but at least two of the three will need to hang on to make the cut.

Mother Nature rips up Oakmont

There's too much money and time invested for any kind of weather to push a course into bad shape. And it's in not just good, but great shape, even with all the rain that came over two days. But the property is taking a beating and it's been at the fans' expense. Everything had looked so primed and perfect all week ... and then the event had to open with a couple inches of rain in 24 hours and little golf. This screwed the Thursday crowd and then the Friday group was not even allowed in the gates right away because the grounds were so bad. The USGA lifted that ban early at 8 a.m., but it's quite inhospitable out there for people trying to move around and enjoy a major championship.

The rain is likely gone for the weekend but the damage has already been done and it's not going to get much better for the massive crowds coming on Saturday and Sunday. Bummer of a way to start the week for so many who worked really hard to set everything up so well for not just the players, but also everyone on the property.

There's hope!

While the grounds aren't going to recover, there are still 54 holes for some of those big names to make a move and get inside the cut line. We tend to get that at these majors and we need it now.

As bad as the first round was, Saturday could be an incredible sprint from sunup to sundown. The morning will start with that top-heavy wave of the draw with both Spieth and McIlroy, as well as Fowler. Mickelson could whip us up during the Friday happy hour too.

The course is also getting back to the entertainingly tough setup we thought we were getting at the start of the week. They're back out there cutting and rolling the greens and it's going to get outrageously quick Friday afternoon and all weekend. This will likely send the cut line soaring over the next 24 hours and make things fun to watch for the fans and much less enjoyable for the players.

The FOX broadcast has also been a big improvement over last year, constantly mixing in technology like ProTracer and handling a bad draw well enough right from the start on Thursday.

There's a lot of golf left and after this first day and a half, we're owed a little juice.

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