A RESUTGENT Ian Poulter claimed a share of the clubhouse lead as windy conditions sent scores soaring on the first day of the US Open, with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods just two of the high-profile victims.
Poulter, who was ranked outside the world’s top 200 just 15 months ago, carded a one-under-par 69 to join world No 1 Dustin Johnson and fellow Americans Scott Piercy and Russell Henley at the top of the leaderboard at Shinnecock Hills.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson are part of a large tie for sixth place on one over, but McIlroy’s hopes of a second US Open title and first major since 2014 were blown away as he slumped to an 80, his worst score in the US Open also equalling his worst in any major from the final round of the 2011 Masters.
And Woods fared only slightly better with a 78, which included a triple bogey on the first and consecutive double bogeys on the back nine, the first as a result of four-putting from long range.
Playing alongside McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson could only manage rounds of 78 and 77 respectively, while Jason Day shot 79 and former British Amateur champion Scott Gregory slumped to an unfortunate 92, the first score in the 90s in this event since 2002.
The last time Shinnecock hosted the US Open in 2004 the USGA was pilloried for allowing the greens to become so dried out that play had to be suspended in the final round so the seventh green could be watered.
And while the wind was largely to blame for the high scores this time, Spieth felt that there were “certainly some dicey pins” and England’s Tyrrell Hatton labelled those on the third, 11th and 12th as “stupid”.
In contrast Poulter - who hit the pin with his tee shot on the par-three 11th - wore a broad grin when he summarised the set-up as “brilliant” after breaking 70 on the opening day for the first time at this event.
“I did not enjoy it at all here in 2004 and through most of the US Opens it feels like you are pulling teeth,” said Poulter, who claimed his first victory since 2012 in the Houston Open earlier this season.
“It’s supposed to be tough but this week I’ve changed my mindset. I’m here to enjoy my golf, play freely and just go and play. It was brutal out there and I’m glad they have widened the fairways otherwise I don’t know what the scores would have been.”
McIlroy had been bullish about his prospects after a lengthy spell of preparation at Shinnecock and other courses on Long Island, but after missing from seven feet for birdie on the 10th, his opening hole, he dropped six shots in the next four holes.
After reaching the turn in 42, McIlroy ran up another double bogey on the first and although he birdied the fifth and sixth, further shots were squandered on the seventh and ninth.
Since winning in 2011 with a record score of 16 under, McIlroy is a combined 53 over par in the US Open and now needs to emulate Piercy’s reversal in fortunes to have a chance of making the cut, the American walking off the course in frustration at the state of his game on Wednesday.
“I was skanking it and lost like five balls in the first four holes. I’m like ‘I’m outta here’,” Piercy explained.
“I needed some time away so we went back to the house, ordered some pizza and I actually went back on my Instagram.
“I looked at some swings that I posted, positions that I was in, saw some drills I was doing and then just ran from there.”
Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick put himself just one shot off the lead in the early stages of day one with the aid of an eagle three at the 589-yard par-5 fifth.
He would eventually have to settle for a three-over-par 73, two shots better than his 2016 Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow Yorkshireman Danny Willett.
Fitzpatrick had opened with a couple of pars before dropping a shot at the third. His eagle reversed his status from one over to one under, but he bookended a birdie at eight with bogeys at six and nine to be out in level par with only four pars to his name. He added six more on the homeward run, but they were accompanied by three more discarded shots at holes 12, 15 and 16.
Willett had four bogeys on his way to the turn and a fifth went on his card at the 12th. The 2016 Masters champion accumulated his only birdie of the day at 16, but gave the shot back at his closing hole.
First round scores (USA unless stated, par 70, (a) denotes amateurs):
69 Dustin Johnson, Russell Henley, Ian Poulter (Eng), Scott Piercy
70 Jason Dufner
71 Charley Hoffman, Justin Rose (Eng), Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Sam Burns, Matthieu
Pavon (Fra), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Charles Howell III
72 Brendan Steele, Xander Schauffele, Alex Noren (Swe), Mickey DeMorat, Patrick
Rodgers, Brandt Snedeker
73 Andrew Johnston (Eng), Brian Gay, (a) Luis Gagne (Crc), Si Woo Kim (Kor),
Chris Naegel, (a) Will Grimmer, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Rickie Fowler,
Patrick Reed, Steve Stricker, Pat Perez, Zach Johnson, Eric Axley, Ryan Fox
(Nzl), Jim Furyk, Paul Casey (Eng), Russell Knox (Sco), Matthew Fitzpatrick
74 Brian Stuard, Brian Harman, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Shubhankar
Sharma (Ind), Aaron Baddeley (Aus), Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman (Aus), Matt
75 Francesco Molinari (Ita), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Patrick Cantlay, Danny
Willett (Eng), Chez Reavie, Tony Finau, Peter Uihlein, Dean Burmester (Rsa),
Shane Lowry (Irl), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Roberto Castro, Jimmy Walker, Calum
Hill (Sco), Luke List, Cameron Wilson, Kyle Stanley, Kevin Chappell, Brooks
Koepka, Sergio Garcia (Spa), Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)
76 Ross Fisher (Eng), Branden Grace (Rsa), (a) Braden Thornberry, Webb Simpson,
Matthew Jones (Aus), Tim Wilkinson (Nzl), Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Richy Werenski,
Daniel Berger, Ollie Schniederjans, Bill Haas, Bryson DeChambeau, (a) Chun An Yu
(Tai), Chesson Hadley, Lanto Griffin, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Ted Potter,
Jr., Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Jhonattan Vegas (Ven),
Sungjae Im (Kor)
77 Sebastian Vazquez (Mex), Richie Ramsay (Sco), Matt Wallace (Eng), Lucas
Glover, Aaron Wise, Christopher Babcock, Dylan Meyer, Bubba Watson, Matthew
Southgate (Eng), Phil Mickelson, Michael Miller, Alexander Levy (Fra), Kevin
Kisner, Tyler Duncan
78 Tiger Woods, Cole Miller, Adam Scott (Aus), (a) Tyler Strafaci, Paul Waring
(Eng), Michael Putnam, Jason Scrivener (Aus), David Gazzolo, Ernie Els (Rsa),
Ryan Evans (Eng), Jon Rahm (Spa), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Jordan Spieth
79 Jason Day (Aus), Graeme McDowell (Nirl), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Harold
Varner III, Gary Woodland, Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn), Tom Lewis (Eng), Wen-chong
Liang (Chn), Doug Ghim (a), Kenny Perry, Haotong Li (Chn), Trey Mullinax,
Cameron Smith (Aus), David Bransdon (Aus)
80 Harry Ellis (a) (Eng), Rory McIlroy (Nirl), Scott Stallings, Will Zalatoris,
(a) Rhett Rasmussen, Sebastian Munoz (Col)
81 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn), Stewart Hagestad (a), (a) Kristoffer Reitan (Nor),
(a) Noah Goodwin, James Morrison (Eng), Keegan Bradley, (a) Jacob Bergeron, (a)
Shintaro Ban, Sung-joon Park (Kor)
82 (a) Franklin Huang, Sulman Raza, Shota Akiyoshi (Jpn), (a) Ryan Lumsden
(Sco), (a) Philip Barbaree
83 (a) Garrett Rank (Can), Lucas Herbert (Aus), (a) Timothy Wiseman, Adam
Hadwin (Can), Martin Kaymer (Ger)
84 (a) Theo Humphrey
85 Michael Block
87 Michael Hebert
92 Scott Gregory (Eng)