The U.S. Open traditionally is the most demanding test of golf perhaps in the world, yet the scores after the first round yesterday at Congressional Country Club didn’t exactly reflect as much. With Rory McIlroy’s 6-under 65 leading the charge, 33 players in all fired par or better compared to just 13 in last year’s first round at Pebble Beach.
The rain both early and late factored into that gaping disparity, with the normally treacherous greens a little more forgiving and approachable thanks to the damp conditions. Players were able to attack the pins as they normally wouldn’t and almost certainly won’t be able to during Sunday’s final round.
“I think everyone expected it to be a bit more quicker, the greens,” said Louis Oosthuizen, the reigning British Open champion who brought St. Andrews to its knees last year with a winning score of 16-under 262. “But they’re good. They’re running really nice and still getting a lot of good putts out there.”
Defending U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell was the only player from last year who shot par or better in the first round to do it again yesterday. McDowell began with a bogey but birdied Nos. 2 and 6 before making 12 consecutive pars.
Joining McDowell at 1-under 70 were notables such as Davis Love III and Stewart Cink, both of whom have claimed major championships.
“Yeah, the greens were receptive,” said Cink, the 2009 British Open winner. “They were still pretty firm, but the ball would stop. And you know just a little bit of moisture in the grass makes a huge difference on a course like this.”