Rain-softened Erin Hills was open and available for low scores Thursday but the world’s top-ranked players were no where to be seen on the leaderboards.
The 117th United States Open got off to a birdie-yielding start and Rickie Fowler made the most of it, shooting a record-tying seven-under par 65. He put his name in the record books next to Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf, who shot seven-under par 63s to open the 1980 U.S. Open at par 70 Baltusrol.
Fowler was the only player in the world’s top 10 to break 70. Sergio Garcia’s 70 made him the only other man in the top 10 to break par.
The top five suffered a major meltdown.
No. 1 Dustin Johnson had too many tee-ball encounters with the knee-high fescue grasses and shot 75.
No. 2 Rory McIlroy found just five fairways, hit only nine greens and shot an embarrassing 78.
No. 3 Jason Day was worse. Day had to hole a 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to break 80.
No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama shot 74.
No. 5 Jordan Spieth’s 73 saved him from opening day disaster.
No. 6 Henrik Stenson shot 74.
Alex Noren (No. 9) carded 73 and Jon Rahm’s (No. 10) poor start left him with a 76 for his day’s work.
While the stars faded, the underdogs stepped up.
Paul Casey and unheralded Xander Schauffele ended up a shot behind Fowler with 66s.
With Phil Mickelson phoning the USGA and withdrawing from the tournament at 8:21 a.m., another Lefty picked up the slack — diminutive Brian Harman was in at 67 along with Tommy Fleetwood from the European Tour and Brooks Koepka.
In all, 44 players broke par and another 16 shot even par.
“It reminded me of a British Open,” said Paul Casey, who played in stronger afternoon winds. The tougher afternoon conditions didn’t stop the 26 players who finished in red numbers compared to 18 in the morning.