Justin Thomas enjoyed day one at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot as a five-under 65 secured the clubhouse lead, yet he acknowledged there was plenty of work left to do.

Thomas held a one-stroke lead over Patrick Reed early on as he carded a round he considered one of his best "in a while".

Three straight birdies from the ninth and another at the last took the one-time major winner to the top of the leaderboard, recording the lowest U.S. Open score in the course's history. This is the U.S. Open's sixth visit to Winged Foot.

"It was a good day for me from the start," Thomas said. "I just played really solidly and hit a lot of really quality tee shots.

"Even the few greens I missed, I hit great bunker shots to get par chances. It was just a really, really solid round of golf. It was one of the best I've played in a while from tee to green.

"There were a couple of things here and there that definitely could have been better, but I just made sure that all my misses were in the right spot.

"That's what you have to do at the U.S. Open."

However, Thomas was not entertaining talk he was now in the driving seat for the remainder of the tournament.

He said: "It's helpful with three days left, but it's not even remotely close to being over. As great and fun as the round was, it's over with now and I need to get over it.

"I've got 54 more holes to try to play well and shoot some good scores."

There was particularly satisfaction at shooting so low at Winged Foot, however, a notoriously difficult, at time high-scoring course.

"A 65 is fun no matter where you play, but especially at Winged Foot," Thomas added.

"I was in a really good frame of mind, I was focused, just thinking of my routine and playing every shot, rather than getting ahead of myself.

"It's one of those rounds where the next thing you know, you make a putt on 18 and you're done for the day."

Tiger Woods was left to rue the conclusion to a rocky opening round at the U.S. Open as a bogey-double bogey finish saw him card a three-over 73.

The 15-time major champion found life tough at the tricky Winged Foot course but looked to have rescued a respectable score.

A run of three birdies from the ninth had Woods under par for the first time, before he again responded after consecutive bogeys on the back nine.

But there was to be another unfortunate twist for the 44-year-old, who missed a six-foot putt to save par at the 17th following a poor tee shot and then made a mess of the final hole, unable to even rescue a bogey from five feet.

Woods was already eight strokes behind clubhouse leader Justin Thomas (five under), who had Patrick Reed (four under) and Rory McIlroy (three under) for company on Thursday.

"It was a bit of ebb and flow to the round today," Woods said. "I did not finish off the round like I needed to.

"I made a bunch of putts in the middle part of the round.

"It seemed like most of my drives on the front nine landed in the fairway and ended up in bad spots, and I tried to stay as patient as possible.

"Unfortunately, I just did not finish off my round the way I needed to."

Patrick Reed made only the third hole-in-one ever seen at Winged Foot in a U.S. Open during Thursday's opening round.

The American stepped up to the par-three seventh having just made a birdie on the previous hole, and his day was about to get a whole lot better.

With 165 yards between tee and the pin, Reed's shot initially hit the green a few yards short but then bounced straight in, much to the 30-year-old's disbelief.

Reed, who almost looked embarrassed by the ace, subsequently moved to one under par, having earlier made double bogey at the par-four fifth.

The 2020 U.S. Open is the sixth edition to be held at Winged Foot.

Mark McCumber made a hole-in-one at the 10th hole when Winged Foot staged the major in 1984, while Peter Hedblom had his moment of glory in 2006 at the third hole.

Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie would have a particularly thrilling and eerily similar tale to recount around a campfire of greats recalling their golfing horror stories.

The year was 2006, the scene was Winged Foot, the prize on offer was the U.S. Open on Father's Day. What unfolded was quite extraordinary. 

Fast forward 14 years and Winged Foot is, belatedly, preparing to once more host the major tournament, where the game's biggest names would do well to listen to Mickelson and Montgomerie's cautionary tale.

In total, there were 15 lead changes among five players on a dramatic final day. So, roast your marshmallows and listen carefully as we shine a torchlight on how Geoff Ogilvy became a major champion at the expense of more recognisable names…

Ogilvy's rollercoaster round

Starting the day just one stroke back of co-leaders Mickelson and the unheralded Kenneth Ferrie, Ogilvy found himself two clear through seven holes after making back-to-back gains at the fifth and sixth. But the Australian was not spared the drama and a run of four bogeys in the space of seven holes between the eighth and 15th saw him drop the lead. A solid finish, which yielded four straight pars, would prove to be crucial though…

Monty's mishap leaves door open for Phil

Considered one of the best players to never win a major tournament, Montgomerie passed up a golden opportunity at Winged Foot. The Scotsman had stayed in contention throughout a brutal final day and drained a mammoth 75-foot putt for birdie at his penultimate hole to take a share of the lead. A par would have been enough for the clubhouse lead, while a bogey would have at least meant a Monday play-off. Montgomerie drilled his tee shot at the last down the fairway and had a little over 170 yards to the pin. After a lengthy deliberation, he selected a seven iron but the approach missed the green short and the resulting chip out of the rough left a long downhill putt. He then agonisingly three-putted to see his hopes go up in smoke.

Mickelson makes an almighty mess of it

You could easily forgive Mickelson for thinking that when it comes to the U.S. Open there is a curse on his name. A six-time runner-up at the only major he has never won, including three prior to arguably his most heart-breaking experience at Winged Foot. Having won the previous two majors at the US PGA Championship and the Masters, few would have backed against him when a par at the last would have been enough to lift the trophy. Mickelson had been scratchy in getting to that point, with five bogeys negating three birdies. But still…surely, surely at least he would be back at Winged Foot on Monday. What followed was a comedy of errors. A drive off the tee was so errant it whistled through the trees towards a hospitality talent. His second struck a tree and advanced him just 25 yards, while his third plugged deeply into a green-side bunker. Out of the sand but with no spin, Mickelson's ball rolled off the other side of the green. A chip for bogey went six feet past the hole, leaving Ogilvy to celebrate.

The other hard luck stories…

Amid the drama, a couple of other near misses are often forgotten. Jim Furyk needed only a par at the last for what would have been enough for a play-off, only to miss a five-footer for par after recovering from the bunker. Padraig Harrington had crept into the mix having played 15 holes at two under without making a bogey. But the Irishman, now a three-time major winner, lost his cool at a crucial juncture, bogeying the final three to finish two back.

The 2020 U.S. Open tees off at Winged Foot on Thursday, but who will have their hands on the trophy come Sunday?

It has been 14 years since this notoriously tricky course last hosted the tournament, when Geoff Ogilvy was the surprise winner.

A score of five over got the job done for the Australian and the suggestion this year is that another over-par tally could clinch it.

With likely contender Brooks Koepka absent, we have taken a look at who should be in the mix...


PUT DUSTIN'S NAME ON THE TROPHY – Russell Greaves

I'm not going to win any awards for bravery with this choice, but world number one Dustin Johnson is impossible to ignore right now. He claimed his first FedExCup triumph this month following two wins in the Playoffs and is long overdue a second major success. The one to his name came at this event in 2016 and his game is in an even better place now than it was then, with his putter running red hot. This guy just needs to keep doing what he's been doing, and victory will be his.

RAHM HAS FORM TO TAKE MAIDEN MAJOR – Chris Myson

"I know I can do it," said Jon Rahm at his pre-tournament media conference and it is not difficult to see why he is rated as second favourite to triumph. While he is yet to claim major glory, the Spaniard recorded his best performance with a tie for third in this event last year. Thirteenth at the US PGA displayed further major form, while wins at the Memorial Tournament and BMW Championship since the PGA Tour's return came on difficult courses that should serve him well at Winged Foot, an infamously challenging venue. Rahm's time may have come.

IT'S RYDER CUP STAR FLEETWOOD'S TIME TO SHINE – Dominic Farrell

Eyebrows were raised when Tommy Fleetwood opted to play at the Portugal Masters rather than heading to the United States for his final preparations for the second major of the year. But as the Englishman birdied three of the last four holes for a final round 64 and an eventual share of third, it suddenly looked an inspired decision. Fleetwood loves the U.S. Open and, after a quiet year – even by the standards of 2020 – there were encouraging signs a game suited to the tournament's famously tough set-up is in good order. The Ryder Cup star came fourth at Erin Hills in 2017 and second at Shinnecock Hills a year later, underlining his pedigree.

SCHAUFFELE'S TIME HAS COME – John Skilbeck

This comes not from the heart but the head: Xander Schauffele is due a major. Two seconds and a third in the last seven majors point to that, and he would relish a dogfight at Winged Foot. As Schauffele said after racking up another top-10 finish at the US PGA: "I'm definitely a grinder type. I don't mind making good bogeys and stuff like that. The harder it is, the better it is for me." The winning score when the 2006 US Open came to Winged Foot was Geoff Ogilvy's five over par, yet Davis Love III took the 1997 US PGA on the same course with an 11-under total, so it is tricky to judge how low the winner must go this time. Schauffele's joint-second place at the Tour Championship confirmed his game is in an excellent place.

SIMPSON A STRONG BET FOR SECOND TITLE – Nicholas McGee

A winner of this tournament at Olympic Club in 2012, Webb Simpson enjoyed a stellar 2020 that has featured six top-10s including two wins and just a pair of missed cuts. The world number six also has a game that should see him rise to the stern challenge Winged Foot's narrow fairways and heavy rough are sure to provide. Simpson was 18th in driving accuracy during the 2020 season, hitting 67.31 per cent of fairways. His form has flown under the radar compared to that of Dustin Johnson, but don't be surprised if Simpson is a two-time champion come Sunday.

RORY'S THE DADDY – Peter Hanson

It's fair to say Rory McIlroy's form has not yet hit the same heights he reached prior to golf's hiatus as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But there were encouraging signs with a tie for 12th at the BMW Championship, a tournament which preceded McIlroy becoming a father for the first time to Poppy Kennedy McIlroy. The Northern Irishman then proceeded to claim a first top-10 finish since golf's lockdown was lifted with a tie for seventh at the Tour Championship. A relaxed, if perhaps a little sleep-deprived, McIlroy is a danger for the rest of the field. It's not a particularly brave choice, but major number five is achievable for McIlroy this weekend.

Rory McIlroy hopes to end his extended wait for a major title at the U.S. Open, but the former world number one is not placing too much pressure on himself as he puts things into perspective after becoming a father.

McIlroy is off diaper duty for this week's rescheduled U.S. Open, which gets underway at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York amid the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.

The 31-year-old Northern Irish star has not added to his four major trophies since 2014, when he claimed both the US PGA Championship and Open Championship.

McIlroy finished tied for 33rd at this year's PGA Championship, while he was unable to defend his Tour Championship and FedEx Cup titles last week as Dustin Johnson reigned supreme.

"Yeah, for sure. I think if anything, if you've looked at my major championship performances over the last few years, I've just gotten off to slow starts," McIlroy told reporters when asked if he had analysed his major struggles.

"I probably just put a little too much pressure on myself going into tournaments. And from there, shooting a bad score on the first day and putting yourself under even more pressure from there to just make it to the weekend, and then to try to play catch-up. I think that's been the big thing.

"When I start tournaments well, I seem to stay up there. I started Pebble last year with a nice score and stayed up there for the most part. I didn't quite finish the week the way I wanted to. But that's been the big thing for me. If I can start and put a good solid round together on a Thursday, I'm usually right there."

While McIlroy is eyeing major glory, defeat would sit slightly easier with the 2011 U.S. Open champion following the birth of his first child.

Asked if fatherhood had relaxed him, McIlroy said: "I think so. I think it just puts things in perspective a little bit. Not that this it matters to me and I care about it very much, but at the same time, it makes the hard days a little easier to get over, right. And I'm not saying that I want to have hard days to get over, but yeah, you're a little more relaxed.

"When I say it's not the be-all and end-all, it's a major championship and I've grown up my whole life dreaming of winning these tournaments, and that's not going to change, but if it doesn't quite happen, I can live with that and go home and be very happy and leave what's happened at the golf course at the golf course.

"I think that's maybe something that I haven't done so well in the past is I haven't left my job at the office basically, I've brought it home with me, and I've let it affect my mood and how I am. I think having that little bit more perspective definitely helps."

McIlroy added: "I actually changed the first two diapers, so I'm very proud of that. But yeah, I've got my hands dirty; put it that way."

World number one and FedEx Cup champion Dustin Johnson said he is looking to maintain his red-hot form at the U.S. Open.

Johnson will begin his bid to win a second U.S. Open on Thursday, after claiming a maiden FedEx Cup and the PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

The 36-year-old American star topped the FedEx Cup standings by triumphing at play-off events the Northern Trust and Tour Championship, having also secured the Travelers Championship in June.

Johnson, who will tee off at Winged Foot Golf Club alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau in a star-studded group, told reporters in New York on Tuesday: "Obviously I've just put in a lot of good work.

"I feel like it's nice to see the work that you're putting in, to be able to take it on the golf course and to a golf tournament. I spent a lot of time with Claude [Harmon] and my brother working on the putting, and everything just seems to be clicking right now. But I've definitely had to put in a lot of work to get to where I'm at.

"The game is in good form right now, hopefully it stays in good form for the rest of the week. But it's one of those golf courses where it's very difficult and you need to be spot-on if you want to play well."

Asked if he has placed more expectation on himself heading into this year's rescheduled U.S. Open due to his stunning form, 2016 champion Johnson said: "I'm playing well. I've got a lot of confidence in the game, but no, I'm not putting any extra expectation.

"I expect to play well every week, but coming here, it's just a golf course where -- the game is in good form right now, hopefully it stays in good form for the rest of the week, but it's one of those golf courses where it's very difficult and you need to be spot-on if you want to play well."

Tiger Woods can identify with the struggles of Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal as they each bid to make history in their sport, with time working against them.

This week, 40-year-old Woods will yet again seek to add to his major haul of 15 in pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record tally of 18.

It was a mark that Woods appeared destined to surpass when he reached 14 in 2008, but his 2019 Masters triumph ended an 11-year drought brought on by injury and personal issues.

Fellow American Williams has similarly hit a barrier in her quest to catch Margaret Court's grand slam total of 24, with the 38-year-old having been one behind since 2017.

Nadal, the youngest of the trio at 34 and also one shy of the all-time mark, faces a slightly different challenge in that his target could be a moving one, with Roger Federer still looking to increase his number of slams victories above 20.

Asked if the proximity to such historic milestones made it harder to win, Woods suggested age was the greatest factor.

"You know, I think it gets harder to win as we all age," he said at Winged Foot ahead of the second of three majors this year. 

"I think that when you're in your prime, in your peak years, you have to take advantage of those opportunities so that when you get to the all-time marks, you have the opportunity.

"I think that whether it's Rafa or Fed or Serena, they've been so consistent and so dominant for such a long period of time, that's how you get to have those all-time marks.

"Consistency over a long period of time is the hallmark of those records."

The U.S. Open has not been at Winged Foot since 2006, when surprise winner Geoff Ogilvy took the honours after finishing five over par.

That sums up the difficulty of the challenge facing the field this week, with Woods citing this track as one of the toughest in the world.

"I think it's right up there next to Oakmont and I think Carnoustie as far as just sheer difficulty without even doing anything to it," he said.

"I think those three golf courses, they can host major championships without ever doing anything to them.

"The winning scores here have never traditionally been very low. I don't see that changing this week.

"The golf course is going to be hard. It depends on how difficult they want to set up these pins, give us a chance at it.

"But with the forecast, it's going to be difficult no matter what."

World number one Dustin Johnson will tee off at the 2020 U.S. Open on Thursday in a star-studded group with Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau.

Johnson, whose solitary major triumph came at this event in 2016, has returned to the rankings summit following a stunning run of form on the PGA Tour.

The 36-year-old has claimed three tournament wins, including the TOUR Championship, to land him a maiden FedExCup and the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award.

Johnson is the favourite to lift the trophy at Winged Foot this week and will be alongside American compatriots DeChambeau and Finau, who are each seeking their first major title.

That headline group goes out at 1:16PM (local time).

Two-time winner Brooks Koepka is absent as he seeks full fitness, while reigning champion Gary Woodland will compete alongside 2019 Open winner Shane Lowry and amateur Andy Ogletree.

Tiger Woods, who has his name on the silverware three times, will feature in a trio with US PGA victor Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas.

Rory McIlroy's pursuit of a fifth major will see him tee off in a group featuring Adam Scott and Justin Rose. 

Spain's Jon Rahm, also considered a leading contender for glory, is in a threesome with Phil Mickelson, who needs this major to complete the set, and Paul Casey.

 

 

Stewart Cink claimed his first PGA Tour title in 11 years after winning the Safeway Open by two strokes.

Cink carded a seven-under-par 65 on Sunday as he surged to his first victory since clinching the 2009 Open Championship.

The 47-year-old American golfer was two shots adrift of overnight leaders Brian Stuard, James Hahn and Cameron Percy heading into the final round at the Silverado Country Club in Napa, California, where the 2020-21 season got underway.

But eight birdies and just one bogey saw Cink emerge triumphant for his seventh PGA Tour crown at 21 under, ahead of countryman Harry Higgs (68).

Doc Redman (62), Chez Reavie (66), Kevin Streelman (67) and Stuard (70) finished tied for third, while Sam Burns (70) and Kristoffer Ventura (70) were a stroke further back at 17 under.

Hahn's final-round 72 saw him drop to 16 under and tied for ninth, while Percy (74) struggled to close the tournament in a share of 23rd position.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson ended the event with back-to-back 70s to earn a share of 44th place, 11 shots behind champion Cink, with the U.S. Open on the horizon.

The rescheduled U.S. Open is set to begin in New York on Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brian Stuard carded a six-under 66 to be in a three-way tie for the lead after the third round of the Safeway Open.

Stuard jumped into a share of the lead at the Silverado Country Club in Napa, California after a fine round on Saturday.

The American produced a bogey-free round to be at 16 under alongside James Hahn (67) and Cameron Percy (68).

While Percy is aiming for a first PGA Tour title, Stuard and Hahn were last victorious in 2016.

Norway's Kristoffer Ventura (66), overnight leader Sam Burns (72) and Harry Higgs (70) are tied for fourth at 15 under.

Emiliano Grillo, who won the tournament in 2015, and Stewart Cink produced fine rounds to move into contention.

Grillo and Cink fired seven-under 65s to jump into 14 under and a tie for seventh alongside Doug Ghim (69), D.J. Trahan (70) and Russell Knox (70).

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, slipped back into a tied for 43rd at eight under after shooting a 70.

Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the U.S. Open due to ongoing injury concerns.

The four-time major champion pulled out of The Northern Trust last month after struggling with a knee issue.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Koepka confirmed he will be taking time out so he can return to full fitness.

"Unfortunately, I have decided to withdraw from next week's U.S. Open," he wrote. "I'm looking forward to getting healthy and competing at 100 per cent again very soon."

Koepka missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship in August before he was forced to withdraw from a charity exhibition event at TPC Boston as a knee problem persisted.

The 30-year-old missed three months of action in 2019 and had an MRI scan on his right knee prior to the Memorial Tournament this year.

He said in July: "Just wanted to check on it, see where it's at. We got the results right after Korea, and then we just wanted to check, and nothing is improved.

"It's still the same. So we'll figure it out when we're done."

Koepka won back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2017 and 2018 and finished second last year at Pebble Beach to Gary Woodland.

 

Dustin Johnson claimed his maiden FedEx Cup title after a three-stroke victory at the Tour Championship on Monday.

The in-form American carded a two-under 68 in the final round at East Lake to close out his victory and win the $15million prize.

Johnson finished at 21 under, three strokes clear of Justin Thomas (66) and Xander Schauffele (66).

World number one Johnson was in incredible form to end the season, finishing as runner-up at the US PGA Championship and BMW Championship, either side of his huge win at the Northern Trust.

He carried that run into Atlanta, where he posted three rounds in the 60s, including a solid Monday that featured four birdies and two bogeys.

Johnson started with three birdies on his first six holes before dropping shots at seven and eight, but a consistent back nine was sealed with a gain at the last.

His FedEx Cup crown adds to his 2016 U.S. Open title, while the Tour Championship win marked his 23rd success on the PGA Tour.

While Thomas, the 2017 FedEx Cup winner, and Schauffele finished tied for second, Jon Rahm (66) ended up outright fourth at 17 under.

Scottie Scheffler (65) finished three shots further back and one ahead of US PGA winner Collin Morikawa (69).

After a promising start, Rory McIlroy – who became a father last week – finished in a tie for eighth.

The defending champion opened with a 64 but rounds of 71 and 70 saw him fall out of contention before he closed with a 67.

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