The bumper-to-bumper congestion on the road to the U.S. Open had nothing Thursday on the Shinnecock Hills scoreboard.
That’s one giant traffic jam, with 12 players bunched at one under, even par or one over. Although that cluster includes Dustin Johnson, the world’s top-ranked player, and No. 3 Justin Rose, there are also a host of lesser-known competitors. Eight of the players in that logjam aren’t ranked in the top 50, and three of those haven’t cracked the top 170. It’s as much “who’s he?” as who’s who.
Tied atop the leaderboard at one-under-par 69 are Scott Piercy, Ian Poulter, Russell Henley and Johnson.
“I’m very pleased with the round,” Johnson said. “Anything under par on this golf course is very good, especially in the conditions we have today. Start to finish, it was very difficult.”
Jason Dufner is one stroke off the lead at even par.
Meanwhile, the familiar names faltered. Tiger Woods finished the day at eight over. Same for Jordan Spieth. Phil Mickelson is seven over, and Rory McIlroy is a forehead-slapping 10 over.
“We thought there were probably close to seven to nine birdie-able holes out there,” Woods said. “Now, with the wind blowing, that changed dramatically. And also, where they put some of these pins, just can’t get to them.”
Tricky greens below, cloudless blue above — a stark contrast from the weeping skies Wednesday — and a steady breeze that had spectators holding on to their newly minted U.S. Open caps.
“Woke up this morning very early, 4:30, got in the shower, got dressed, had a cup of tea. Good to start the day,” Rose said.
“Got in the car, didn’t pay much attention. Arrived here and I’m like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ The wind, the flags were already, you know, fluttering dead straight. So, I knew I was in for a tough day when I saw that.”
Woods, playing in his first U.S. Open since 2015, got off to a terrible start with a triple bogey on the par-four No. 1 hole. His low iron off the tee and approach were fine, although the latter rolled off the green and into a collection area below.
Trying to chip onto the green, Woods came up short and the ball rolled back to him. He tried to chip again, but the results were the same. Finally, he pulled out a putter and knocked it onto the green. He missed the putt for double, then tapped it in for a triple.
“I drove it pretty darn good for most of the day,” he said. “Just never really took advantage of the opportunities. Making a triple and two doubles, not very good.”
All is not lost for Woods. Although this marked the first time he started a U.S. Open with a triple bogey, he did begin the 2008 U.S. Open with a double bogey and wound up winning — his most recent major championship victory. He double-bogeyed the No. 1 hole at Torrey Pines three times in that tournament.
Although he had his share of good shots, Woods missed a lot of putts.
“It’s frustrating because I hit the ball well,” he said. “In the last, I think, four tournaments, I have not putted well. So if I can putt like I did at the beginning of the year, we’ve got something. I just haven’t done that.”
He’s tied for 101st and will have to bounce back in a big way to make Friday’s cut to the top 60 players and ties.
The forecast calls for more winds and possibly some light rain Friday morning, with increasingly mild conditions in the afternoon.