David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Rickie Fowler owns a one-shot lead following the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Erin, Wisconsin.
Fowler posted a seven-under 65 on Thursday. Paul Casey birdied the 18th hole to move into second place at six under. Xander Schauffele had a chance to tie Fowler for the lead but settled for a par on No. 9 and a share of second place. Three others are tied for third place at five under.
Whether or not he wins, Fowler is at least positioned to improve upon his U.S. Open performance over the last two years.
He missed the cut at the 2015 and 2016 editions following his runner-up finish in 2014. In both cases, Fowler largely doomed himself with a poor opening round. He was 11 over through 18 holes in 2015 and then six over in 2016.
On Thursday, Fowler got off to a strong start, birdieing three of his first five holes. He maintained that consistency over the rest of the round as he reached 12 of the 14 fairways and 15 greens in regulation.
The U.S. Open shared a replay of Fowler’s final birdie putt on the seventh hole:
U.S. Open (USGA) @usopengolf
To 7 under he goes… https://t.co/uTY2kmbAZv
ESPN.com’s Jason Sobel and Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman noted Fowler’s performance was historically significant:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
Rickie Fowler opens with 7-under 65. Best opening-round score at U.S. Open in relation to par since Nicklaus and Weiskopf shot 63s in 1980.
Kelly Tilghman @KellyTilghmanGC
No one has ever shot a bogey free opening round of 7 under in US Open history…until now. Rickie, Rickie Fowler ya’ll.
Despite his hot first round, Fowler can’t afford to rest on his laurels given the number of golfers within striking distance of him.
Casey opened with an eagle on the first hole and a birdie on No. 2. He dropped a stroke with a bogey on No. 4 but carded two more birdies before making the turn. Following a bogey on No. 10 to begin the back nine, Casey righted the ship with three birdies over the remaining eight holes.
The PGA Tour shared a replay of his approach on No. 18 to set up his last birdie:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
A birdie to top off an incredible day. Paul Casey climbs into a tie for second after an opening-round 66. https://t.co/1uXRpvyrMe
The bulk of Schauffele’s success came on the front nine as conditions became more favorable into the evening. He strung four birdies together over the back half of his round and nearly made it five after a good tee shot on the ninth hole. His birdie putt didn’t break enough and rolled to the right of the cup.
Still, USA Today‘s Nancy Armour noted how a share of second place in the U.S. Open is a big achievement for Schauffele considering what he had to do to get here:
Nancy Armour @nrarmour
Xander Schauffele survived a five-man playoff to get out of Memphis sectional. He’s now tied for second after first round of #USOpen
Further down the leaderboard, Masters champion Sergio Garcia remains in the hunt for a second major title after going two under. Garcia has plenty of work ahead, but five shots isn’t an insurmountable gap, especially if scoring levels off over the weekend.
Dustin Johnson, on the other hand, is already looking unlikely to defend his 2016 U.S. Open title. He endured a rough stretch on the back nine that resulted in his finishing three over for the round.
The 2015 U.S. Open champion, Jordan Spieth, is also over par after carding a one-over 73.
Jason Day, who has finished in the top 10 of the last four U.S. Opens, will have a hard time making it five in a row. He’s seven over through the first round.
A blimp accident roughly a mile away from the course may have been the biggest story Thursday. Social media users shared video of the blimp falling to the ground:
Adam Johnson @Coach_Guy_AJ
Pretty sure I just watched the blimp crash at the #USOPEN! Hope everybody is ok! https://t.co/OSOCSBF46p
madison seigworth @msiggyy
Just got to the #USOpen and the blimp caught fire and crashed. People parachuted out. https://t.co/1lDi3VkXCu
Fox Sports showed footage of the blimp exploding in a nearby field:
FOX Sports @FOXSports
A manned blimp unaffiliated with FOX Sports or the #USOpen crashed near the course today. We will provide more details as they’re available. https://t.co/QEAk8tiU0K
AirSign, the company that owned the blimp, said in a statement “the blimp pilot is being taken to the hospital but is expected to be OK.” The Washington County sheriff’s office said the pilot, Trevor Thompson, suffered serious burns, per the Guardian.
The crash and Thompson’s health undoubtedly casted a shadow over the first round.
Play will resume at 6:45 a.m. CT with six golfers teeing off to begin the second round.
Since he was in one of the earlier groups Thursday, Fowler will have a good idea how his score is holding up when he takes to the No. 1 tee Friday. He, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm are scheduled to begin at 1:36 p.m. CT.