14 June 2019: After an uncharacteristically prolific day of scoring at the US Open, Justin Rose climbed up a leaderboard littered with stars with a record-equalling 65 in the opening round of the 119th US Open. On a fine day with barely any wind in the morning and soft greens, a bunch of golfers took advantage to post under-par scores, giving the leaderboard a very PGA TOUR like appearance. Anirban Lahiri overcame a disastrous start to battle through an engaging day for a 74 as he returned to the US Open after a three-year hiatus.
Defending champion Brooks Koepka got off to a hot start but fell back to T16 when bogeys at the 13th and 17th restricted him to a 69. He was four-under through the first six holes but as the winds picked up it became increasingly difficult for Koepka to press on.
Rory McIlroy made the most of the morning conditions for a 68 that placed him within striking distance of the leaders, three strokes barely any margin on a course notorious for its penalising errant golf.
Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, playing in the same group as Rose, scrambled all day as they struggled with their irons. The duo posted 70 and 72 respectively, with Woods clearly happy to have escaped with an under-par card.
“I didn’t hit my irons as crisp as I’d like. I tried to miss the ball in the correct spots, and a couple of times where I had wedges in my hand I was just dumping, center of the green, move on, get my 30-, 40-footer and move on about my business and take my medicine when I was in a bad spot,” elaborated Tiger.
Rose refused to get ahead of himself despite emulating Woods’ score of 65 in that epochal 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach. With Mark Fulcher home on indefinite leave, Rose has Gareth Lord on his bag this week. The 2013 US Open champion will go to bed hoping that his new partnership with Lord works just as well.
Three straight birdies at the end set up his 65 and the birdie putt at the 18th with Tiger for witness must have felt incredibly special for Rose. The Englishman also made one of the record 17 eagles that marked an unusually low scoring US Open round. His eagle came at the par-5 sixth holes, sandwiched nicely between birdies at the 4th and 7th to cushion his card before he made the turn.
“I wouldn’t say it’s exhilarating, because I feel like my mindset is I am in a 72 hole tournament,” Rose said. “This is just a very small step towards the outcome. So you don’t feel like that buzz that you would on a Sunday, but you can’t help but look around over your shoulder, and dam, this is Pebble Beach. Shot 65 and you’re in the U.S. Open. It’s a cool moment. Whatever transpires the rest of the week, it was a cool moment.”
Anirban was four strokes down by the time he reached the fourth tee. Having started at the 10th, which was one of the toughest holes on Thursday, he followed a pair of bogeys with a double at the third to find himself in rough weather very early in the round.
“I got off to a nightmare start. The 20-minute drive to the 10th tee did not help; my body kind of cooled off and I hit some shots feeling tight. The inexperience of playing from the 10th here at Pebble, I suppose,” said an exasperated Anirban.
“I got over-aggressive after the opening bogeys and ended up making double on 12,” he admitted. “Again a mental error for the US Open.”
But he played with great determination despite the early setback. Anirban produced a string of pars through the third hole to remain at 4-over with six holes to play. He was pushed deeper into a corner when he conceded a third bogey at the par-4 fourth hole, where he found himself in the greenside bunker.
Anirban bounced back with three straight birdies on an exhilarating stretch of the round that raised hopes that he could bring it all back to even with a good run. But his tee shot at the 9th found some rough and he worked his way to a bogey to end the round.
“I went back to my Gameplan and played very solid for the rest of the round. Got an unlucky break on 9 and ended up making bogey but otherwise played pretty solid.”
At three-over, Anirban is lying T98 and needs an under-par round on Friday to ensure he makes his first cut at the US Open. He will tee off at 2105hrs IST on Friday, playing off the first tee this time around.