U.S. Open 2017: Rickie Fowler shoots 65 to grab early lead at Erin Hills

ERIN, Wis. -- On a still, quiet day in the middle of Wisconsin, Rickie Fowler tore up an unprotected course to the tune of a 7-under 65. It was his best first round at the U.S. Open in his career, and it came on a day when a whole host of golfers turned the toughest test in golf into a John Deere Classic.

The 7-under 65 also tied the lowest first round score to par with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf at the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol when both shot 7-under 63. Nicklaus went on to win at 8 under. 

"You don't get many rounds at the U.S. Open that are stress-free," Fowler said. "Just did a good job, knew I needed to drive it well, and from there, [I was] just able to manage hitting and continuing to swing well, rolling a couple in.

"So, simple day when you look back on it, and how we kind of pieced our way around the golf course. A lot easier said than done."

Birdies flew early and often on Thursday morning, and nobody made more of them than Fowler with seven. His clean-card 65 included an absurd 12-of-14 fairways hit and 15-of-18 greens in regulation. That'll play on any course in the galaxy, and it mirrors what he did when he finished runner up two weeks ago at the Memorial Tournament when he hit over 80 percent of fairways.

At 7 under, he leads by two over Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman and Brooks Koepka.

"I'll just take the cumulative of that [7 under] for three days and I'll wait and go over there and see what that does," Fowler joked, insinuating that 14 under would be plenty enough for major No. 1. "I don't need a whole lot more after putting 7 up today."

Fowler is 0 for 29 in major championships so far and is probably the best player in the world currently without a major now that Sergio Garcia is off the board with his Masters win. He said on Thursday he's not real disappointed by that.

"There are a lot of really good players out here that haven't won a major," Fowler said. "So it would be nice to get rid of that at some point. I'm not saying that this is the week or isn't the week. But I like the way this golf course suits me, and we're off to a good start. There's definitely a lot of golf to be played."

He's right about that, but if he continues to hit 86 percent of fairways all week here at Erin Hills, we could have a "Martin Kaymer in 2014" situation on our hands. 

There is a flip side with Fowler, though. He has not been very good at this tournament in recent memory. Fowler came into this week having missed two straight U.S. Open cuts alongside a missed cut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week. 

He also ejected late at the Masters after mixing it up over the first three rounds. However, he wasn't hitting it nearly as well then as he is now. He looks as confident with his driver and iron play as he ever has. And his wedges were downright righteous on a course that will reward you for great wedge play.

This will likely be the first time Fowler will hold a lead after the first round of any major championship. The problem for those chasing him -- and there will be plenty -- is that he has staying power. You're not chasing Andrew Landry or even Shane Lowry around the course. Fowler has won big boy tournaments all over the world, and this would be the crown jewel in his collection.

There's a long way to go for Fowler, but it's not difficult to see somebody who's in the top 10 in strokes gained off the tee and putting who also just tied a 37-year-old record for first round scoring hanging on for a wire-to-wire victory.

"It's cool, but it's just the first round," Fowler said. "It is always cool to be part of some sort of history in golf. But I'd rather be remembered for something that's done on Sunday."

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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