PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – As it usually is, the spotlight was on names such as Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka on Day 1 of the U.S. Open. But plenty of players who came into Pebble Beach flying under the radar put red numbers on the board on Thursday and are in a good position through 18 holes at the year’s third major.
• Aaron Wise’s upward trajectory continued on Thursday at the U.S. Open, where he sits in a share of second place with Rickie Fowler, Louis Oosthuizen and Xander Schauffele after his round of 5-under 66.
Wise, 22, may be a somewhat of a surprise to casual golf fans, but he has some big wins in his short career, including the 2016 individual title as an Oregon Duck and a breakthrough PGA Tour victory at last year’s AT&T Byron Nelson en route to being named the 2018 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
“Winning is kind of a habit. Everything in life is kind of a habit. And you want to make winning one of those habits, especially being as competitive as I am,” Wise said.
• Louis Oosthuizen finished T-2 at the 2015 U.S. Open, and he put himself in position to do one better here at Pebble Beach after an opening 5-under 66 that puts him one off the lead through 18 holes.
The 36-year-old had been marred in a slump until breaking through for his first victory in three years at the South African Open in December, and has a chance to return to major glory for the first time since the 2010 Open Championship.
“To be able to win a U.S. Open would be very magical to me. It would be I think something that anyone can dream of winning an Open and the U.S. Open,” Oosthuizen said. “I think Pebble to me is probably one of my favorite, if not the — my favorite venue for a U.S. Open.”
• Scott Piercy only got into the U.S. Open last week as part of the top 60 in the word (No. 59) exemption, but he’s making the most of his opportunity so far. Piercy, who finished T-2 at the U.S. Open in 2016, sits one two off the lead after shooting a 4-under 67 that he said he’d take “every time.”
Had he not gotten in, Piercy’s other plans didn’t sound too bad … “There would be an indentation in the couch,” he joked after his round.
• Bryson DeChambeau, 25, has four wins in his young PGA Tour career, but he’s the first to admit he has had issues with the game mentally, and he said as much on Thursday after an opening 69 that left him four shots off the lead.
“I was coming back off of a lot of neurological damage that I’ve had from just hitting bad shots and not doing the right things with my swing and just going down rabbit holes that weren’t really pretty,” said DeChambeau. “It’s going to create some neurological damage there for me. And I’m trying to get over that as of right now. I’m doing a pretty good job so far. Today is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
DeChambeau’s best finish in a major is a T-15 at the 2015 U.S. Open. He’s in a spot to improve upon that through 18 holes at Pebble Beach.
• Francesco Molinari had been on an extraordinary roll before collapsing at the Masters and eventually losing to Tiger Woods, but his opening 3-under 68 puts him in the mix to get back on the major train.
The reigning Champion Golfer of the Year had it going early, birdieing three of his first seven holes, including the iconic par-3 seventh, and although he cooled off on the backside, he was able to close his round with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole.
• Jon Rahm’s last six major finishes look like this: 4th-MC-MC-T4-T9-MC. So it’s a good sign for his chances that Rahm started the U.S. Open with a 2-under 69. Rahm, 24, likes the course setup, so it could bode well for his chances at a first major title this week.
“I think it’s about as good as a U.S. Open setup as I’ve seen for a first round,” he said.
• Graeme McDowell didn’t win the U.S. Open on Day 1, but he certainly didn’t lose it. The 2010 U.S. Open champion here at Pebble Beach carded a 2-under 69 on Thursday and he provided the story of the day afterward, telling reporters about Tuesday night’s champions’ dinner.
“I think the best story for me was just kind of at the end of dinner, Jack [Nicklaus] and Tom Watson got up and told some stories, and Jack pretty much took the microphone around to every table and – bullied is the wrong word, but forcefully asked players to stand up and tell some stories,” McDowell said. “And let’s just say Tiger was the first guy that got picked on by Jack, and it was like: You, up. You know, it was just Jack, you know, taking his position as the greatest in the game. Certainly it inspirational. It was really cool to sit there. And for me, just as I get a bit older, looking around and feeling part of that special fraternity and the players that you’re surrounded by, it’s brings – it quantifies what it is to win the U.S. Open trophy.”
• Viktor Hovland picked up right where he left off from his U.S. Amateur victory at Pebble Beach last August.
The 21-year-old Oklahoma State product, playing in his last tournament as an amateur, birdied four of his first six holes to move within a shot of the U.S. Open lead. Despite a double bogey at the par-4 eighth and two more bogeys, Hovland managed to finish strong, as well, making birdie on each of his last two holes and shooting 2-under 69 to tie playing competitor and two-time reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka.
“I don’t feel like I had my best stuff,” said Hovland, who is trying to become the first amateur to win the U.S. Open since Johnny Goodman in 1933. “I’m not hitting it quite where I want to and how I want to, so that really gives me a lot of comfort knowing that I can hang with the best in the world with not quite my best stuff.”