Kevin Na and Graeme McDowell take advantage of good scoring conditions
By Bernie D'Amato under US Open


Softer greens meant lower scores in the opening round of the U.S. Open. Kevin Na and Graeme McDowell registered two-under 68s to take the early clubhouse lead at Pinehurst No. 2.

The course is still playing difficult, but it isn’t as firm as what the players experienced during the practice rounds. McDowell said, “In practice yesterday, the golf course seemed to be very firm. It seemed to be kind of a weekend set up. I guess the USGA were really relying on some rain last night, which didn’t come. I’m assuming they put some water on this place this morning. And we were able to take advantage of that a little bit early on, and actually think about getting at some of those flags.”

Kevin Na chipped in for eagle on the par-5 fifth hole (his 14th hole of the day) to get to two-under, which is where he finished. Na is feeling good about his game, “It was a lot of fun. I hit it great today. I hit it well. I hit my irons great.”

Players are still experiencing the up-and-downs of playing in the national championship. Brandt Snedeker got his round to four-under through eight holes, but had trouble on 10, 11, and 12 going bogey, double-bogey, bogey to fall back to even par through 12. He bounced back with birdies on 14 and 16 before bogeying 17, and finishing at one-under.

Snedeker said, “I knew there was a stretch of holes that were going to be less than perfect, have to try to survive. I didn’t do a great job, made that double on 11 which was kind of a bad double, thinking-wise. But I didn’t get too down on myself and realized that it can happen. Hopefully, that will be the last time I do that this week.”

Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Brendon Todd, Jordan Spieth, and Hideki Matsuyama shot one-under 69s as well.

Kuchar held the lead by himself at three-under through 15, but made bogeys on 16 and 17 for a one-under 69. He made a par save at the last, and spoke about how it felt to get in with an under par round,  “It sure does, it would have really been a tough finish to finish with three straight bogeys, pretty easy for that to happen out here. I felt like I just hit one bad golf shot today, that was the tee shot on 17 was pretty much it. And other than that, played some really good golf.”

2014 U.S. Open leaderboard.

–Bernie D’Amato