The opening round of the U.S. Open yielded plenty of low scores, and more may be on the way because of tonight’s rainfall. However, the second round scores will be largely determined by the hole locations cut by the USGA. Golf’s governing body has the power to flatter the best players in the world, or make their lives very difficult.
Today’s scoring average was 73.23, which is the lowest first round scoring average since the 2003 Open at Olympia Fields (72.68). If the first round is the “easiest” Pinehurst will play, then we are in for a treat because 73.23 is a tick above three-over par. No. 2 has teeth, and I fully expect the USGA to fight back with a tougher course setup tomorrow.
15 players shot under-par in the first round, which is the most since 32 players shot under-par in the fourth round of the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. It is important to remember after the record scoring at Congressional, the winning score for the ’12 and ’13 Opens was one-over par.
On Tuesday, Phil Mickelson said, “The one analysis that I’ve made is that of those six second place finishes, five of them it rained. So I’m pulling for rain.” Phil got his wish because it poured at Pinehurst Thursday night.
The easiest hole of the day was the par-5 fifth, the only hole to play under par. However, Henrik Stenson believes problems will occur on the fifth hole over the next three rounds, “But if you guys want to see some disasters, you should get a hot dog, snickers, and coke, and head down to five green, because that’s as hard as it can ever get. I said when I finished my round at the Open last year on Friday, if you want to go out and see some train wrecks, go to 15th and I was right.”
Henrik added, “And I think I’m pretty — the margins are so slim on that green. And I hit a lovely 3-iron in, I think at one point it was about 15-feet away for eagle. And then I got an extremely difficult bunker shot next from about 25 yards up the hill. And I hit it to about a foot. But if it goes another foot, it’s off the green on the other side. That green, yeah, you’re just happy if you get it to stay on the surface.”
The players are having difficulty hitting greens in regulation (58% GIR). With the rough gone, and the fairways widened, the greens are Pinehurst’s defense. Let’s see how accessible the hole locations are in the second round.
Statistics from the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Open are courtesy of the USGA.