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3 Notable Observations from the First Round of the 2023 U.S. Open

Heorhii Rysak

Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele have set an impressive pace, each delivering exceptional performances with record-breaking scores of 8-under 62, resulting in a shared first-round lead.

In fact, the Butterfield Bermuda Championship was the only other PGA Tour event this season to see multiple players shoot 62.

Observing Rickie and Xander dominate the course like this, it’s evident that the typical U.S. Open mindset of merely playing for par is nowhere to be found,” remarked Harris English, who shot 67. “To keep up with these guys, you have to make some birdies.”

Typically, a solid 2-under 68 would put players in the lead after the first round, but at the 123rd U.S. Open, it places them six strokes behind and outside the top 10 (T-13). Thursday saw an unprecedented number of scores, with six players shooting 65 or lower, marking the highest tally for a single round in U.S. Open history.

It was noted that it was not only the leaders who had performed exceptionally well. It was noted that, in a historic first for the U.S. Open, not a single player recorded a score of 80 or higher in the opening round. It was mentioned that the scoring average for the first round (71.38) had been the lowest ever recorded in a U.S. Open, surpassing the previous record of 72.29 set at Baltusrol in 1993 by nearly a full shot.

Harris English commented on the favorable conditions, stating that it was probably the easiest the course could have played that day. He believed that when the players saw the scores, particularly a couple of 8-unders, they would not be too pleased about it. He further mentioned that it was likely the shortest the course could have been played that day, with no incredibly difficult pin positions. He expressed the belief that the course could only become more challenging from that point onward.

Dustin Johnson, the champion of the 2016 U.S. Open, concluded his round with a bogey on the last hole, marking his sole blemish of the day. He posted an impressive 6-under 64, his lowest round ever at the U.S. Open. This accomplishment highlighted that he now shares the record with Tiger Woods for the highest number of rounds of 65 or better in a major championship, surpassing the previous mark set by Jack Nicklaus with nine such rounds.

Paul Azinger of NBC shared his opinion, stating that he believed Johnson was probably the most formidable player among the competitors.

It was mentioned that Johnson’s excellent iron play had been instrumental in his success, as he had led the field in Strokes Gained Approach-the-Green (+4.085). It was noted that in the PGA Championship the previous month, he had ranked 111th in that category, with an average of -.814 per round, while finishing tied for 55th.

Johnson emphasized the importance of accurate driving at the venue, stating that one needed to drive the ball well there, or they would not stand a chance. He further explained that if one played well and placed their shots correctly, they could be more aggressive and have several wedges in hand. However, even then, a really good golf shot was required to get close to the hole.

Clark Sets a High bar

Wyndham Clark

Wyndham Clark, observed finishing his round on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club, has set an impressive standard following his triumph at the Wells Fargo Championship in May. His strong performance at the Memorial Tournament has carried over, as he finds himself once again in contention this week at LACC after an impressive opening round of 6-under 64.

According to Clark, hitting the ball in the fairway provided favorable opportunities to make birdies on most of the holes. Even when he missed fairways, he acknowledged the challenge but still believed that the course was very much accessible.

Clark attributed his successful start to a stellar putting performance and his mental resilience. Reflecting on his day, he admitted that his ball striking was not particularly exceptional, especially with his iron play in the fairway. However, he expressed satisfaction with his putting, which played a crucial role in his round. Despite encountering a few bogeys, he managed to respond with birdies promptly, indicating a strong mental approach to the game.

Rory’s Impressive Start

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy showcased a remarkable beginning as he teed off on the 8th hole during the opening round of the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. It has been a span of 12 years since his initial triumph in a major championship at the 2011 U.S. Open and nine years since his most recent major victory at the 2014 PGA Championship. Open and nine years since his last major win at the 2014 PGA Championship. However, the 34-year-old finds himself in a promising position this week following a solid opening round.

Teaming up with Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama in the afternoon session, McIlroy smoothly maneuvered through the front nine of Los Angeles Country Club with skill and efficiency. A remarkable start saw him make birdies on the first two holes, as well as the 5th, 7th, and 8th, leading to an impressive 5-under 30 at the turn.

While his performance slightly cooled down in the latter half, McIlroy managed to add another birdie at the picturesque par-3 15th before encountering his sole bogey of the day on the 18th hole. McIlroy’s approach shot found the bunker on the left side of the green, and his subsequent shot from the sand failed to reach the green, settling instead in the thick rough along the edge of the trap. However, he demonstrated skill and finesse with an up-and-down play, successfully salvaging what could have been a disastrous double bogey to conclude his round. As a result, McIlroy was able to sign for an impressive 5-under 65, placing him tied for 5th alongside Brian Harman, trailing the co-leaders Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele by three shots.

McIlroy chose to cancel his scheduled news conference prior to the championship, which had been planned for Tuesday morning. This choice followed a hectic week at the RBC Canadian Open, during which he fielded numerous inquiries regarding the collaboration between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in creating a new international golf organization. The four-time major winner expressed that the media session in Canada had been the most uncomfortable experience he had encountered in the past year.

Following his round on Thursday, McIlroy promptly signed his scorecard and retreated to the clubhouse, declining to return despite a media request for an interview.

Scheffler and top players experience mixed outcomes

Scottie Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler was observed chipping on the 7th hole during the first round of the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. Despite a slow start that included a bogey on the first hole, Scheffler managed to recover and deliver a solid performance, recording his first birdie on the par-3 ninth hole.

Throughout the round, Scheffler encountered both bogeys and birdies, making a total of five birdies sandwiched between the first and last holes. Ultimately, he finished with a 3-under 67 on Thursday. Reflecting on his performance, Scheffler expressed contentment, acknowledging the hiccup at the last hole but appreciating the overall result. He commended himself for hitting numerous good shots and maintaining patience on a day that initially presented a slow start.

In addition to his performance, Scheffler made the decision to switch putters, opting for a Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Plus. The early results were promising, as he felt he rolled the ball nicely and witnessed successful putts.

World No. 2, Jon Rahm, faced challenges in finding fairways but managed to squeeze out a 1-under 69. Rory McIlroy ranked No. 3, experienced a strong start by birdieing five of his first eight holes. However, he encountered a mishap with a pitch shot from the rough on the last hole, resulting in his sole bogey. McIlroy finished with a 5-under 65. Patrick Cantlay ranked No. 4, rallied in the later stages of his round to card a 1-over 71. Exhibiting resilience, Viktor Hovland recovered admirably after a double-bogey on the par-5 14th hole, which occurred early in his round. He became only the third player in the past decade to recover from a score of 3 over or worse to finish under par in the first round of a U.S. Open. In 2021 at Torrey Pines, Edoardo Molinari achieved this feat, while John Pak accomplished the same in 2020 at Winged Foot.

Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick concluded the day with a 1-over 71. The 2015 U.S. Open champion, Jordan Spieth, carded a score of 2-over 72, while Justin Thomas, a two-time PGA Championship winner, and former Masters champion Adam Scott both posted scores of 73.

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U.S. Open 2023: Frequently Asked Questions

Amidst the buzz surrounding the PGA Tour-Saudi deal, it’s important not to overlook the upcoming major championship. And this major holds special significance—it marks the return of the U.S. Open to Los Angeles after a hiatus of 75 years. The last time L.A. hosted a major event was back in 1995. With the highly anticipated debut of Los Angeles Country Club’s renowned North Course as the venue, we can expect an extraordinary tournament.

In the previous year at The Country Club in Brookline, Matt Fitzpatrick emerged as the victor in a thrilling fashion, narrowly edging out Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris to claim his first major title and inaugural PGA Tour victory. However, Fitzpatrick is not considered one of the favorites this time around. At the forefront of the sportsbook, leaderboards are familiar faces in major championships like Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, and Brooks Koepka, with Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, and Justin Thomas not far behind, vying for the top spot.

Will we witness a remarkable Cinderella story from a regional qualifier, or will it be a blockbuster event with one of the established stars adding more accolades to their name? Anything is possible in the vibrant City of Angels.

With that in mind, let’s delve into the answers to some commonly asked questions to prepare you for an exciting and star-studded U.S. Open in Los Angeles.

When U.S. Open is Played?

The U.S. Open is typically held each year during the third weekend of June, and it traditionally culminates on Father’s Day with the final round However, it returned to its usual spot on the schedule in 2021.

Who is Responsible for Organizing the U.S. Open?

The organization in charge of organizing the U.S. Open is the United States Golf Association (USGA).

When and Where Did the Inaugural U.S. Open Take Place, and Who Claimed Victory?

The inaugural U.S. Open took place in 1895 at Newport (R.I.) Golf Club. At that time, the course consisted of nine holes, making the championship a one-day, 36-hole competition. The winner emerged as Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old Englishman, who outperformed nine other professionals and one amateur to claim victory with a score of 173. Rawlins was awarded $150, a gold medal, and the privilege of holding the U.S. Open Trophy for one year.

What Format Does the U.S. Open Follow, and How Many Players Compete in the Championship?

The U.S. Open follows a format of four rounds, encompassing 72 holes of stroke play, with a cut made after 36 holes. A total of 156 players compete in the championship. The top 60 players and those tied for 60th place make the cut.

What is the Determination Process for the Winner in the Event of a Tie after 72 Holes?

Previously, an 18-hole stroke-play playoff took place on the Monday following the final round. However, the USGA has now introduced a two-hole aggregate playoff to decide the champion. However, the USGA has since modified the format to a two-hole aggregate playoff. If the players remain tied after the two playoff holes, sudden death is employed until a winner is ultimately determined.

When Was the Most Recent Occurrence of an 18-Hole Playoff?

The last time an 18-hole playoff took place at the U.S. Open was in 2008 at Torrey Pines, featuring Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. Following the 18 holes, they remained tied, leading to a sudden-death playoff. Woods ultimately emerged as the winner on the 19th hole.

We were just a single shot away from witnessing additional holes in the previous year’s tournament at Brookline. Had Will Zalatoris successfully made a birdie putt of 14 feet on the 72nd hole, there would have been another playoff to include in this FAQ.