U.S. Open analysis: 10 notes to know after Round 1 at Pinehurst

Two men tied together from U.S. Opens past share the lead after an eventful Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2.

In 2011, Rory McIlroy blew away the field at Congressional, winning his first career major championship by eight shots. As McIlroy lifted the trophy Sunday evening, Patrick Cantlay stood behind him, receiving low amateur honors. More than a decade later, they again share a U.S. Open stage.

Here are the top numbers and notes to know from Round 1 in North Carolina:

1. McIlroy shot a brilliant, bogey-free 65, the second time in his career he’s started a U.S. Open with a blemish-free score. In fact, each of the last three times he started a major with a bogey-less round one, he went on to win – that ’11 U.S. Open, the 2012 PGA and the 2014 Open Championship.

On a day when the field averaged nearly 47 feet from the hole with approach shots, McIlroy hit five approaches inside 20 feet, converting three of those birdie opportunities. He was excellent through the entire bag, ranking 11th or better in strokes gained off the tee, approach and around the green. He also picked up nearly two full shots on the field on the greens, making everything he looked at inside 10 feet.

McIlroy entered the week as the only player to finish in the top 10 each of the last five years at this championship, and the leader in strokes gained per round at the U.S. Open in that span. There’s a long way to go, and McIlroy has teased fans with Thursday fireworks before: it’s the seventh time he’s shot 67 or better in the first round of a major since his win at Valhalla 10 years ago. If McIlroy wins this week, the 13-year gap between U.S. Open victories would be the largest all-time.

2. For the last several seasons, Cantlay has been a pervasive force on PGA Tour leaderboards, but was never able to translate that success into the game’s four most consequential events. So naturally, amidst a by-his-standards pedestrian 2024, he assembled his best start to a major championship on Thursday. Cantlay’s opening 65 was the lowest score in a U.S. Open at Pinehurst by anyone not named Martin Kaymer until McIlroy matched it hours later.

Cantlay needed just 23 putts to get around No. 2 on Thursday, his career-low number in a major round. This marks the first time that Cantlay has held a share of the lead following a round of a major championship. Before Thursday, his best-ever position after the opening round of a major was a tie for seventh place at the 2022 Masters.


McIlroy, Cantlay shoot first-round 65 at U.S. Open

3. Unflappable Swedish golf machine Ludvig Åberg started his U.S. Open career Thursday with a stellar 66. While there have been a handful of other debut 66s in recent years, the last player to begin their career at this championship with a score better than what Åberg assembled was T.C. Chen (65) at Oakland Hills in 1985. Åberg hit every fairway and 16 of 18 greens in regulation in the round, benchmarks met only one other time in a U.S. Open round at Pinehurst No. 2 (Brendan de Jonge did it in the first round 10 years ago).

In April, Åberg nearly became the first player to win in his Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. It’s been significantly longer since anybody won the United States Open in their first try — that distinction belongs to Francis Ouimet, all the way back in 1913.

4. Those of you promised sweet golf carnage this week may be scoffing at the scores we all witnessed on Day 1. But Pinehurst has a history of biting back as a U.S. Open progresses. In 1999, 23 players broke 70 in the opening round, with four players sharing the lead at 3-under. There were six rounds in the 60s the rest of the week combined, and Payne Stewart won the trophy at 1-under-par.

Six years later, the Day 1 co-leaders also tied at -3, before Michael Campbell won the championship with a 72-hole score of even par. Martin Kaymer went wire-to-wire a decade ago, but he was a massive outlier (-9) with the two runners-up finishing just eight shots behind. In the three previous Opens held here, 10 percent of first-round scores have been in the 60s. In Rounds 3 and 4, that number is slashed in half to 5 percent.

5. Bryson DeChambeau continued his superb play in the majors this year with a first-round 67. His driving on Thursday was like executing needlepoint with a claymore sword: he hit 12 of 14 fairways while averaging more than 325 yards on his tee shots.

The 2020 U.S. Open champ’s ball striking has returned to the level he achieved during his professional peak. He’s gained strokes on the field tee-to-green in all nine major rounds he’s played this year, averaging better than three shots picked up per round. DeChambeau’s strong Day 1 came even though he didn’t make a putt longer than nine feet.



The best view of this U.S. Open? It starts at the beginning

6. Scottie Scheffler has experienced some unfamiliar things in major championships this year. Unlike last month at Valhalla, though, Thursday’s unexpected doings happened on the golf course. Scheffler was wild with the driver, hitting just six of No. 2’s generous fairways. He lost strokes to the field off the tee for just the sixth time in 43 measured rounds in 2024.

Scheffler was not under par at any point in his round Thursday, another statistical anomaly for him this year. Entering the week, Scheffler had played a grand total of 21 holes this season while over par for a specific tournament. He was never over par at any point in eight different tournaments this year, including at Augusta National, Riviera, the PGA Championship or last week at the Memorial. He played his last 15 holes Thursday in the black, finishing with a 1-over-par 71.

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Xander Schauffele is five strokes off the lead at the U.S. Open. (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

7. Despite a woeful day with driver, reigning PGA champ Xander Schauffele survived his first trip around Pinehurst No. 2 with an even-par 70. Like Scheffler, Schauffele also hit just six fairways. He ranked 146th out of 156 players in the field Thursday in strokes gained off-the-tee, a metric he ranked third in last month in his victory at Valhalla.

The man who surrendered the Wanamaker Trophy last month, Brooks Koepka, also started his week with a 70. Through 12 holes, it looked like Vintage Major Brooks™ was in full flight, 3-under and bogey-free. Koepka bogeyed three of his last six though, dropping nearly two full strokes on the greens in that span. At five back, Koepka knows his hopes are far from squashed: he was six behind after Round 1 in his win at Shinnecock six years ago.

8. Making his 25th consecutive U.S. Open start, Sergio Garcia kicked off his week with a 1-under-par 69. The 2018 Masters winner has made 19 U.S. Open cuts in his career. No European player has done that 20 or more times in the modern era: the last player from Europe to finish 72 holes in the U.S. Open 20 or more times in their career was Tommy Armour, who made his debut in 1920.

Buoyed by a pair of eagles, Frenchman Matthieu Pavon carded a 67, his first career sub-70 score in a major championship. Pavon is the first player to make multiple eagles in a U.S. Open round at Pinehurst No. 2. In all, there were 10 eagles Thursday, with nine of them coming on the fifth hole.

9. Afternoon scoring proved to be a touch higher than the early wave, playing 0.34 strokes harder in Round 1. Just six of the 15 rounds in the 60s came from the later side of the draw. Maybe the most unexpected sub-70 round from that group was from Jackson Suber, who acquitted himself nicely as the substitute in the field for injured Jon Rahm. The Ole Miss product beat both of his playing partners – Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama – by three shots.

10. Fourteen of the previous 15 major winners in the men’s game have been in the top 10 after the opening round. At the U.S. Open, 23 of the last 25 winners were within five shots of the lead entering Round 2. Each of the previous three winners of this championship at Pinehurst were within four shots following Round 1.

The largest 18-hole deficit faced by a player who went on to win the U.S. Open that week is nine shots, by Jack Fleck at The Olympic Club in 1955.

(Top photo of Ludvig Åberg: Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images)

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