Skip to content

Studs and duds from Round 1 of U.S. Open

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

After the birdie-fest at Valhalla last month, major championship golf punched back Thursday, with Pinehurst No. 2 providing a much stiffer test at the U.S. Open.

The first-round action from the iconic venue was tremendous, with Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay playing brilliantly to share the early lead at 5-under while a handful of big names track closely behind.

Let's look at the studs and duds from Thursday to help set the table for the remainder of the U.S. Open.


Rory McIlroy

Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

McIlroy recorded his first bogey-free opening round at a major since the 2014 Open Championship. It was a flawless display of golf from the World No. 3, who gained strokes across the board and only missed three greens. McIlroy's in a prime position to continue his sensational U.S. Open run (he has five straight top-10 finishes and was the runner-up last year) and perhaps end his decade-long major drought.

Patrick Cantlay

Where did this come from? Cantlay has been riding the struggle bus for the majority of the season with only two top-10 results. He showed no signs of finding form in his lead-in starts to Pinehurst, having missed the cut at last week's Memorial Tournament and finishing outside the top 50 at the PGA Championship. Seeing him card a 5-under 65 while leading the field in strokes gained: tee to green is a surprise.

Ludvig Aberg

The Swede, playing in only his third major championship, reminded everyone why he was selected to the 2023 European Ryder Cup team despite only having been out of college for a few months. Aberg fired a tidy 4-under 66 to sit one behind Cantlay. He hit 14-of-14 fairways and 16-of-18 greens in regulation in a display of ball-striking brilliance. It's hard to imagine him falling out of contention if he continues that level of play for three more days, putting him in a position to improve upon his best major finish - a second at this year's Masters.

Bryson DeChambeau

Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Stop me if you've heard this before, but DeChambeau got off to a blazing start at a major championship. The LIV Golf superstar was one of the top performers in the afternoon wave, using his brute strength off the tee and touch around the greens to fire a 3-under 67. DeChambeau held the opening-round lead at last year's PGA Championship and again at Augusta in April. He was 7th after 18 holes at last year's U.S. Open and 18th after the opening round at May's PGA Championship. His game may be unconventional, but his wildly entertaining style is paying off on golf's biggest stage time and again. DeChambeau ls leading the field in strokes gained: off the tee with a whopping +2.85 number and will look to build on his strong opener on Friday morning.

Sergio Garcia

Garcia has very little left to prove in his career, so no one would blame him if he took his LIV cash and coasted off into the sunset like a few of his peers, such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Henrik Stenson. But Garcia continues to grind at the age of 44 by making it through U.S. Open qualifying and firing an impressive bogey-free, 1-under round Thursday. It remains to be seen if he can continue to play this well for another 54 holes, but his effort in Round 1 needs to be applauded.

Pinehurst No. 2

One of the best parts of a U.S. Open isn't knowing how the course will play. So far, Pinehurst No. 2 has done a fantastic job presenting a tough - but fair - test to the world's best. Players hitting it well were able to make birdies and were rewarded with scores well under par. However, if you didn't have your A-game, big numbers could easily be made all over the course, which is the perfect recipe for a challenging U.S. Open venue.


Scottie Scheffler

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Scheffler is human after all. The World No. 1 and heavy tournament favorite struggled off the tee, hitting only 6-of-14 fairways. He was left scrambling for par more often than not and struggled to make the birdie putts he did have. Though a 1-over round doesn't completely ruin his chances of winning - he's still priced as the third favorite at +550 - it's far more of an uphill battle considering the hole he's dug himself.

Viktor Hovland

Hovland was one of the favorites going into the week, priced in the same neighborhood as Collin Morikawa and Brooks Koepka. He led people to believe he was over his early-season struggles with a nice showing at the Memorial and a third-place result at the PGA Championship. Perhaps his game has turned the corner, but his first-round 78 certainly didn't show it.

Tiger Woods

If someone would've told you that Woods would rank 14th in the 156-man field in strokes gained: off the tee Thursday, you'd likely expect him to be near the top of the leaderboard. However, Woods' iron play was a mess in Round 1, with the 15-time major winner ranking 86th in the field in approach play. That was the difference between a quality round and the 4-over 74 he finished with in his first competitive round at Pinehurst since 2005. That leaves Woods in a tie for 88th and needing a strong Friday to make the cut for the 18th time at the U.S. Open.

Justin Thomas

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe Thomas' opening round, but none of them are positive. Thomas made nine bogeys en route to a 7-over 77 to sit near the bottom of the leaderboard after Round 1. While pre-tournament expectations weren't sky-high, he was trending in the right direction with two top-10 results in his last four starts, and Pinehurst seemed like a venue that would fit his game. Unfortunately, Thomas will likely be enjoying the weekend action from the couch.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox