ERIN, Wis. – Four U.S. Open records fell during the first round.
Rickie Fowler tied the lowest first score in history, Adam Hadwin tied the record for most consecutive birdies, a record 44 players finished the first round under par, and the field’s +1.39 scoring average was the lowest in any round since 1983.
It wasn’t until Friday — after then-leader Rickie Fowler had played 28 holes — that he made his first bogey. Four players are tied for the second round lead at seven under. Three more trail at six. Only two players inside the top 15 finished over par for the day, and both shot just one over par.
These are not the statistics of a U.S. Open.
I realize that opinion is divided on this point. Many honest, smart golf fans watch the U.S. Open and see a golf tournament souped-up beyond belief. It’s not golf, they say. It’s something else. Something comical — and not in a funny way.
With all due respect to those fans, I couldn’t disagree more. No, I wouldn’t want to watch U.S. Open golf every week, but I want to watch it this week. Every week players are welcomed onto well-manicured stages for them to showcase their prettiest of skills. This week — U.S. Open week — we’re supposed to see them win ugly.
Winning the U.S. Open isn’t about silk. It’s about steel. How will you respond to an unfair break, or repeated strokes of bad luck, or a draconian punishment to the slightest miscue? It’s not about fun. It’s about fortitude.
Fans often like to bemoan the state of modern professional athletes. They’re overpaid prima donnas that have lost the art of hard graft. The U.S. Open is supposed to be the antithesis of that. This tournament doesn’t ask you to perform on a pedestal. It knocks you off it, and tells you to fight your way out of the mud.
But this year is different. After coming in for a wave of criticism during the 2015 event, followed but a rules debacle in 2016, the USGA dialed it back this year. And it shows.
The fairways are wide and the fescue is manageable. Even after two days of sun, the greens remain a long way from firming up. Brandt Snedeker, who will go into the weekend T-8, said he could feel the “fire” coming back into the greens. If it is, it’ll be quickly extinguished by the rain slated for the weekend.
Brooks Koepka inadvertently summed-up this year’s event rather masterfully. On the longest course in major championship history, where sheer size is its best defense, the U.S. Open co-leader revealed he has yet to hit more than a seven iron into any par four.
The pressure will kick in, but I hope — somehow — the scores will take a sizable hit, too. The U.S. Open is the best event in golf because it’s a brawl between the players and the course. This year, it’s shaping up to be little more than a pillow fight.