Rose ties Tiger’s U.S. Open record to lead at Pebble Beach
England’s Justin Rose punctuated a day of record-smashing scoring by the field on Thursday, rolling in a birdie putt on his final hole to tie Tiger Woods’ all-time record at a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a 6-under-par 65.
Rose isn’t likely to pull away like Woods did in 2000 for a 15-stroke victory. His birdie on 18 put him one shot clear of Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Aaron Wise and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.
Rose needed only 22 putts Thursday, and was a perfect 15-for-15 from inside 10 feet. He rolled in three consecutive birdies to finish his round, and said he knew the final one was for something special when it dropped in while playing with Woods.
“The only reason that I knew is that, I think maybe Rickie (Fowler) had that putt (for the record) earlier today,” Rose told FOX Sports. “I was watching a little bit of the coverage … so on the last hole I thought, ‘This would be kind of cool to do it in front of the great man himself.'”
Rose hit only nine greens, but made a number of sand saves and relied heavily on the most improved aspect of his game. The 2013 U.S. Open champion at Merion entered the week ranked 11th on Tour in putting.
“Any U.S. Open, you have to manage your game,” he said. “The premium here isn’t necessarily about length, it’s about keeping the ball under the hole. But I don’t know if I did a good job of anything well today except scrambling. Which is nice, it’s nice to score like that and know there’s a little bit more in the long game.”
Scott Piercy, who was twice at 5 under during the morning wave, bogeyed his final hole to drop to 4 under, where he is tied for sixth place with Nate Lashley. A group of eight players another shot off the pace includes Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
Two-time defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka reached 3 under before suffering his lone bogey of the day at the par-3 17th. He is tied for 16th along with Matt Kuchar, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and amateur Viktor Hovland.
“I felt really comfortable right out of the gates and struck it nicely,” said Koepka, who has won four of the past nine majors. “Unfortunately, I didn’t hit it as well on the back nine. And if you don’t hit greens out here, you’re not going to score. You can shoot yourself out of it today, and I didn’t do that.”
Woods battled an inconsistent iron game throughout his first round. Like his playing partner Rose, Woods used a bevy of hard-earned scrambles for par to get into the clubhouse in a tie for 28th at 1 under.
Playing in the morning wave, Fowler carded six birdies against a lone bogey. He pulled his approach shot left on the par-5 18th hole, and his birdie putt slid right of the cup, preventing Fowler from beating Rose to the punch in tying Woods’ Pebble Beach record.
“I thought I made it as soon as I hit it, just didn’t really react the way I thought it would,” Fowler told FOX Sports. “To be honest, I felt like that was about as bad as I could have shot. I thought there was more out there.
“It was just a fun day, it’s nice when you can shoot a stress-free 66 and get off to a good start for the week.”
Fowler was alone atop the scoreboard when he left the course, but he soon was joined by Schauffele and Oosthuizen, who chipped in for eagle on his second hole of the day and holed out from a green-side bunker on No. 9 to finish it.
Schauffele also had an eagle, but did it in dramatic fashion on the 18th hole after ricocheting his drive off the rocks along the ocean. He went on to cap off a 5-under 31 on the back nine.
“My round was solid, but I feel very fortunate just because of that late eagle,” he said. “I hit two really bad shots and a great putt, and that’s how that 3 occurred there.”
McIlroy carded a 3-under 68 in the morning wave despite failing to birdie any of the three par-5s.
“I think I did what I wanted to do,” McIlroy told FOX Sports with a sigh. “I feel like I just did everything you need to do in a U.S. Open. I stayed patient. I bogeyed the first hole, then played really, really solid golf after that.
“I did what you’re supposed to do at a U.S. Open — made a lot of pars, chipped off the birdies when you can … and I thought it was a good day’s work.”
Fowler’s day included six birdies against a lone bogey. Most important, he hit 13 fairways — his most on Tour this season.
“It definitely helps everything out from there. Driving the ball well frees you up a bit. I feel like I’m swinging it well throughout the bag. You gotta get the ball in the fairway to allow yourself to use the rest of your game to your advantage. If you don’t drive it in the fairway, you’re just playing catch-up.”
McIlroy was candid earlier in the week how important he felt getting off to a fast start would be. It has been five years and 17 starts since his last major victory, but McIlroy has also gone on to win the past three majors in which he opened with a 68 or better.
“Especially trying to get back to winning these big events, you know, it is important,” McIlroy said of Thursday’s start. “The first two majors of the year, I think I shot 73 at Augusta and I shot over par at Bethpage (in the PGA Championship) as well. It’s so hard to chase, especially when the golf courses are so hard.
“To get off to a good start like this today … you’re right in the tournament from the start, which is a nice position to be in.”
NOTES: World No. 2 Dustin Johnson shot an even-par 71. He is one shot ahead of Phil Mickelson, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. … Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (2-under 69), the winner of the last U.S. Open held at Pebble Beach in 2010, put together his first bogey-free round in a major since the 2009 PGA Championship at Bellerive. … Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard carded a 6-over 11 on the 18th hole Friday, the highest score on a single hole in a U.S. Open since John Daly’s 14 on 18 at Pebble Beach in 2000. Bjerregaard hit his first two tee shots left into Pacific Ocean and his third out of bounds.
–Field Level Media