It was a tremendous first day of golf on the course at Pinehurst, and on top of that we even avoided the weather. Brandt Snedeker got things started wildly early as he got to 4 under, fell back to even, and settled at 1 under an we were off from there.
It took until the very end of the day for somebody to run away with the lead, though. Late in the afternoon of Round 1, 99 (!) golfers were within five shots of the lead until Martin Kaymer ran away and hid with four birdies on the back nine.
1. Martin Kaymer shoots 65 and burns up field: How was Martin Kaymer's Thursday? Oh, just went out and shot the lowest round ever at a US Open at Pinehurst.
As Jamie Kennedy pointed out, you'll never guess who has the second-best round:
The 65 by Martin Kaymer is the lowest score at Pinehurst in a #USOpen. Previous best? 66, Peter Hedblom (R2, 2005).— Jamie Kennedy (@jamieonsport) June 12, 2014
It's also the lowest round by anyone at a US Open since Rory McIlroy was 6 under in 2011, and I think you remember what he did there.
Kaymer shot 34-31 for his 65 with four birdies to no bogeys on the back nine.
"I made a few putts at the end," Kaymer told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi. "I hit the ball really solidly and didn't make many mistakes. I'm very happy."
He also noted that he thought 8 over would be the winning score, meaning he could have 13 strokes to play with between now and Sunday.
Kaymer looked nearly unbeatable at The Players Championship earlier this season but this isn't Ponte Verde Beach. It'll be fascinating to see how he holds over the weekend.
2. Phil Mickelson battled: Lefty shot an opening-round 70, which was neither great nor terrible. He told Tom Rinaldi it should have been a 66, but that at least it wasn't a 76.
While we're here, is there anyone associated with this tournament this week who doesn't want Mickelson to win and isn't named Tiger Woods? I haven't read about or talked to anyone who falls into this category.
3. You have to be below 72 on Thursday: According to Justin Ray of the Golf Channel, the last 15 US Open winners have shot 72 or better in the first round of the US Open. Who does that eliminate?
- Bubba Watson
- Sergio Garcia
- Jason Day
- Angel Cabrera
- Lee Westwood
- Billy Horschel
- Luke Donald
- Adam Scott
- Hunter Mahan
- Ernie Els
You could take that team to a Ryder Cup and compete.
4. Pinehurst didn't win but ohh she's coming: My colleague Will Brinson did a cool piece on how easy it was to score for golfers at Pinehurst on Thursday.
Don't think the USGA won't read that and set fire to every sprinkler head within 100 miles of that golf course. OK, they probably won't but there will be 100-car pileups for the next three days and you can bet your Donald Ross ball marker on it.
5. Everybody in the young-gun group broke their combined age: Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, and Rickie Fowler played together on Thursday.
Their combined age is 77, nobody even approached that. In fact, they were a combined 2 under for the day. Big time.
6. Somebody named Fran Quinn is contending: He went to Northwestern and he's 49 years old and he's beating fellow Northwestern alum Luke Donald by nine and tied for second place. Of course, 19-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick, who also went to Northwestern, is also beating Luke Donald by six.
7. The World Cup kind of took over: Look, I get it, every four years, no Tiger, etc. but it felt like the Brazil-Croatia game sort of overtook Round 1 on Thursday. The great thing is that the leaderboard is loaded enough to go blow-for-blow with the Cup all weekend.
8. Adam Scott was the subject of the coolest Day 1 photo (duh):
9. You can't win it on Thursday but not many golfers lost it, either: Other than those I mentioned above who shot over 72 pretty much everyone is in it. That's great for the viewership but also fun in a Tiger-less major.
Let's look at this chart:
This year looks a lot like 2011, actually. Erase Kaymer and there are a whopping 80-plus golfers within five of the lead (which would be 2 under without Kaymer). That's a lot of golfers in the mix.
10. Rory McIlroy is lurking: McIlroy didn't play that well on Thursday but he battled quite well for a 71. His issue of late has been that defining one bad round. Did we see it contained in the first 18 holes on Thursday or is it still coming?
His second round is the one I'm most interested in (other than Phil, of course!)