Only Nine Players Complete Rainy Round 1
By David Shefter, USGA
OAKMONT, Pa. – Oakmont Country Club is perhaps best known for its lightning-fast greens. But on Thursday, it was lightning that got everyone’s attention.
Three weather suspensions interrupted the first round of the 116th U.S. Open Championship for more than four hours before play was officially halted for the day at about 4:30 p.m. Of the 156 players scheduled to play, only nine completed their opening round, and the afternoon wave of 78 competitors never started.
University of Texas junior Scottie Scheffler, the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champion from Dallas, Texas, is the overnight clubhouse leader after a 1-under-par 69.
PGA Tour rookie Andrew Landry, of Austin, Texas, who has made 5 of 11 cuts and finished no better than a tie for 41st (in last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.) stood at 3 under par. He will face a 10-foot birdie putt on the ninth green – his final hole – when play resumes on Friday morning at 7:30.
Another stroke back were two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, of Bagdad, Fla., and 2008 U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee, of New Zealand. They had four and five holes remaining, respectively.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, of Dallas, was 1 over par through 11 holes, while 2011 champion Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, stood at 4 over with five to play.
In the days leading into the U.S. Open, the challenging H.C. Fownes layout with more than 200 bunkers, thick rough and greens rolling 14 on the Stimpmeter was in ideal firm-and-fast championship condition.
But more than an inch of overnight rain took some bite out of the course, and additional rain on Thursday further saturated the grounds.
Mike Davis, the CEO and executive director of the USGA who oversees the course setup, said on Thursday morning that Oakmont was ripe for some low scores.
Even with favorable conditions, just seven players in the morning wave were in red figures when play was halted at 3:51 p.m., then suspended for the day a short time later. Play was first suspended at 10:04 a.m. and resumed 79 minutes later. Golf was played for another 44 minutes before the horns blew for a second time at 12:07 p.m. Play resumed at 2:33, and 78 minutes later, another thunderstorm halted play for what turned out to be the final time.
“It’s obviously a frustrating day having to keep coming off,” said Lee Westwood, who is 1 under through 13 holes. “But there’s nothing you can do about the weather.”
Scheffler, with birdies on the par-5 fourth and par-4 seventh, played his final nine in 34.
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Scheffler, who helped Texas reach the championship match of the NCAA Championship at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, only to come up short against host Oregon. Scheffler defeated NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise in his match, then qualified for his first U.S. Open in a playoff at the sectional in Powell, Ohio.
“I feel pretty good,” said Scheffler, who turns 20 on Tuesday. “My game plan isn’t going to change much [for the rest of the week]. Try to get the ball in play and see what I can do on the fairways out here. It’s not easy to play from the rough and the bad spots around this course.”
Early in his round, Landry evoked memories of Lee Mackey Jr., a then 26-year-old journeyman professional who opened the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion with an Open-record 64. Such first rounds by unknowns are somewhat common in the U.S. Open: Andy Dillard reeled off six consecutive birdies to start the 1992 championship at Pebble Beach, while Justin Hicks, Kevin Streelman (both 2008) and Michael Thompson (2012) were also surprise quick starters.
None of those players, however, hoisted the trophy. Mackey, in fact, carded an 81 the next day and faded to a tie for 25th.
Landry, who qualified for the Open in last week’s sectional in Memphis, Tenn., put his name at the top of the leader board with three consecutive birdies from No. 2 (he also started on No. 10) to reach 5 under par before the second of the three weather suspensions. When play resumed, he missed a short birdie putt on No. 5 and then suffered consecutive bogeys at Nos. 7 and 8.
“The greens were – I felt like they were probably running at like 16 [on the Stimpmeter] when I got here on Monday, which is absolutely crazy,” said Landry, a three-time All-American at the University of Arkansas who would post the lowest first-round U.S. Open score at Oakmont (a 66) if he is able to birdie his final hole. “Now, obviously, they're a good speed, and they're so perfect out there. You can make so many putts. I've hit the ball really well today and just made a bunch of putts and just kept it going.”
Lurking just behind him is Watson, whose only top 10 in nine previous Opens is his top 5 at Oakmont nine years ago. Watson also is the only person thus far to birdie the 258-yard, par-3 eighth hole. His five birdies have been offset by three bogeys.
“The weather didn't affect my play,” said Watson. “The golf course affects the play more than anything. We always got off the golf course before the rain. So the rain had no chance to affect us or anything. I came out with three birdies after the first delay. So I guess it helped me better than it hurt me.”
With his original second-round time set for Friday afternoon, Watson was hoping to stay up and watch Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, but he’ll have to return early on Friday, along with 69 others to finish Round 1.
“Obviously, I wish I could watch the game all the way through,” he said. “But it will be some good rest and just get ready to play the last few holes. Hopefully we can get the golf in tomorrow as well.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.