The bigger the names, the bigger the numbers.
Such was the rule of thumb in the first round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Thursday — and a downward-turned thumb at that.
The featured trio on the morning of the opening round had all the spark and sizzle of a wet match in a wind tunnel. Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy — with a dozen major championships among them — finished a combined 25 over par.
In the afternoon, Tiger Woods shot an eight-over-par 78.
Mickelson hit 13 of 14 fairways but misplaced his short game, normally the deadliest part of his arsenal. He repeatedly missed putts he would usually make and shot a seven-over-par 77.
Spieth, the defending British Open champion, was inconsistent off the tee, and saw nasty gusts push his ball this way and that. He was four over after two holes, and finished at plus-eight.
The group started on the back nine, and Spieth took a six on the par-three 11th, with his bunker shot rolling off the back side of the slick green, and his next shot hitting the green before slowly trickling back to him.
“From there,” he said, “it was just kind of a grind.”
No need to convince McIlroy. He was 10 over through the first 11 holes with a scorecard that even a weekend duffer would shred: par, bogey, bogey, double, double, birdie, bogey, par, bogey, double, bogey. He eventually stopped the bleeding, playing the final seven holes at even par, but it would require a Herculean effort to make the cut.
Both Mickelson and McIlroy, typically accommodating, declined to speak to reporters after their rounds. Spieth stuck around, but only briefly. It won’t be any easier for that threesome Friday, because they tee off in the afternoon, when the winds tend to blow harder.
Good when it counts
Scott Piercy was feeling good after his one-under-par 69 on Thursday, a day after he was at the opposite end of the confidence spectrum.
“I walked off the golf course after four holes [Wednesday] frustrated, so I didn’t really see this coming,” said Piercy, who two years ago finished tied for second in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
He teed off early Wednesday, before the rain, but called it quits to regroup after the drizzle started.
“Went home, ordered some pizzas, pounded some pizza and just had some fun hanging around the house,” he said of his rebooting strategy. “I just needed some time away because it was — golf’s hard enough as it is, and then we’re at the U.S. Open, so kind of had to back up.”
Then again, maybe that was a good omen, because he wasn’t feeling too good about his game in his preparations for Oakmont.
“I was a little bit struggling with my golf swing Monday, Tuesday,” he said. “Kind of found a little bit on Wednesday. Actually, that was the best ball striking week of my life. So a little bit of a parallel.”
South Africa’s Dean Burmester closed his round in style, holing out from the fairway for eagle after a 411-yard drive on the 491-yard 18th hole.
But then Burmester, playing in his first major, made what some might call a rookie mistake. He gleefully tossed the ball into the gallery instead of keeping it.