Dustin Johnson regained the world No. 1 ranking by winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week and he’s back on top of the leaderboard after one round of the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
DJ shot 1-under-par 69 in brutally windy conditions and shares the lead with Ian Poulter of England, Scott Piercy and Russell Henley.
“The golf course is hard; I thought I did a bit of everything well,” said Johnson, who won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. “I really chipped and putted well when I got out of position, that’s the biggest thing. I hit a lot of good shots, drove the ball well and had some birdie putts.
“I watched a little on TV this morning (before his afternoon tee time) and knew it was playing difficult. It’s the U.S. Open and you want to tough, but maybe not this tough. You’ve got to play well and I’m happy I was able to post a good score.”
When it rained on Wednesday, there was talk that the players who went out in the morning in the first round might have an easier time than expected, so the United States Golf Association did what it could to make sure that didn’t happen with some difficult pin positions.
And then the wind blew at up to 30 mph, leading to a scoring average of 76.4 in round one.
“It feels extremely good (to break par),” said Poulter, who has never finished in the top 10 in the U.S. Open. “As I sit here and look at the scores, it’s very difficult out there today. I played in the rain yesterday and the greens were very slow. So (the USGA) cut and rolled them this morning, and after two or three hours of 25 mile-per-hour winds, they dried out and became very fast. It’s extremely difficult to keep the ball on the right side of the hole.
“It’s nice to be in the clubhouse with a score in red numbers after the first round of the U.S. Open. I don’t think I’ve done that before. It’s like pulling teeth on every hole, but it’s supposed to be difficult and there are three tough days left.”
Johnson birdied four of his first 11 holes after starting at No. 10 and was at 3-under before holding on for his 69, while Henley sank a 26-foot eagle putt at No. 5 and added two birdie putts down the stretch as he finished at No. 9.
Poulter played the front nine in a bogey-free 2-under and also hung on by finishing with five straight pars after making his only two bogeys while playing in the morning, as did Piercy, who made two birdies early on the back nine and closed with six pars in a row.
Jason Dufner hit every fairway but missed several short putts, although he sank a three-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to shoot 70 and is solo fifth.
Third-ranked Justin Rose of England totaled 71 and is tied for sixth with Charley Hoffman of Poway, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Sam Burns, Matthieu Pavon of France, Charles Howell III and Byeong Hun An of South Korea.
Seventh-ranked Rickie Fowler is tied for 23rd at 73, second-ranked Justin Thomas shot 74 and is tied for 37th, 10th-ranked Hideki Matsuyama of Japan totaled 75 and is a in tie for 47th that includes ninth-ranked Brooks Koepka, who won the U.S. Open last year at Erin Hills.
Several of the other pre-tournament favorites might have played themselves out of contention.
Phil Mickelson, trying to complete the Career Grand Slam after finishing second in the U.S. Open six times, is tied for 89th at 77, while fourth-ranked Jordan Spieth struggled to a 78 and is in a tie for 102nd that includes fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain and three-time U.S. Open champ Tiger Woods.
Even worse were eighth-ranked Jason Day of Australia, who is tied for 114th after a 79, and sixth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, who is tied for 128th at 80.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.