A resurgent Ian Poulter claimed a share of the clubhouse lead as windy conditions sent scores soaring on the first day of the US Open, with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods just two of the high-profile victims.
Poulter, who was ranked outside the world’s top 200 just 15 months ago, carded a one-under-par 69 to join world number one Dustin Johnson and fellow Americans Scott Piercy and Russell Henley at the top of the leaderboard at Shinnecock Hills.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson are part of a large tie for sixth place on one over, but McIlroy’s hopes of a second US Open title and first major since 2014 were blown away as he slumped to an 80, his worst score in the US Open also equalling his worst in any major from the final round of the 2011 Masters.
And Woods fared only slightly better with a 78, which included a triple bogey on the first and consecutive double bogeys on the back nine, the first as a result of four-putting from long range.
Playing alongside McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson could only manage rounds of 78 and 77 respectively, while Jason Day shot 79 and former British Amateur champion Scott Gregory slumped to an unfortunate 92, the first score in the 90s in this event since 2002.
The last time Shinnecock hosted the US Open in 2004, the USGA was pilloried for allowing the greens to become so dried out that play had to be suspended in the final round so the seventh green could be watered.
And while the wind was largely to blame for the high scores this time, Spieth felt that there were “certainly some dicey pins” and England’s Tyrrell Hatton labelled those on the third, 11th and 12th as “stupid”.
In contrast Poulter – who hit the pin with his tee shot on the par-three 11th – wore a broad grin when he summarised the set-up as “brilliant” after breaking 70 on the opening day for the first time at this event.
“I did not enjoy it at all here in 2004 and through most of the US Opens it feels like you are pulling teeth,” said Poulter, who claimed his first victory since 2012 in the Houston Open earlier this season.
“It’s supposed to be tough but this week I’ve changed my mindset. I’m here to enjoy my golf, play freely and just go and play. It was brutal out there and I’m glad they have widened the fairways otherwise I don’t know what the scores would have been.”
McIlroy had been bullish about his prospects after a lengthy spell of preparation at Shinnecock and other courses on Long Island, but after missing from seven feet for birdie on the 10th, his opening hole, he dropped six shots in the next four holes.
After reaching the turn in 42, McIlroy ran up another double bogey on the first and although he birdied the fifth and sixth, further shots were squandered on the seventh and ninth.
Since winning in 2011 with a record score of 16 under, McIlroy is a combined 53 over par in the US Open and now needs to emulate Piercy’s reversal in fortunes to have a chance of making the cut, the American walking off the course in frustration at the state of his game on Wednesday.
“I was skanking it and lost like five balls in the first four holes. I’m like ‘I’m outta here’,” Piercy explained.
“I needed some time away so we went back to the house, ordered some pizza and I actually went back on my Instagram.
“I looked at some swings that I posted, positions that I was in, saw some drills I was doing and then just ran from there.”
Brooks Koepka will defend his US Open title at Shinnecock Hills next week as the year’s second major championship takes place from June 14-17.
Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the tournament.
Will the USGA get the course set-up right?
The last time Shinnecock Hills hosted the US Open in 2004, play had to be suspended during the final round – in which 28 of the 66 players amazingly failed to break 80 – to water the seventh green, which had already been described as “ridiculous” and “unplayable” by Ernie Els a day earlier.
More recently the 18th hole at Chambers Bay in 2015 was labelled “unbelievably stupid” when played as a par four by Jordan Spieth, while Henrik Stenson compared the parched greens to “putting on broccoli”.
Last year at Erin Hills, former champion Rory McIlroy was stunned to learn the USGA were cutting down heavy rough on four holes in the middle of his pre-tournament press conference.
It is hardly surprising that USGA chief executive Mike Davis admits the organisation is happy to “have a Mulligan this time” at Shinnecock.
Can Koepka become the first back-to-back winner for 29 years?
Curtis Strange was the last player to make a successful title defence, following his play-off victory over Nick Faldo in 1988 with a one-shot win 12 months later.
Koepka equalled McIlroy’s tournament record with a 16-under-par total and four-shot victory at Erin Hills, and also won by nine shots in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in November.
A serious wrist injury means the 28-year-old has played just five events in 2018, although he was second in the recent Forth Worth Invitational.
Will Phil Mickelson complete the career grand slam?
Mickelson needs to win the US Open – in which he has been runner-up six times – to become the sixth player to have won all four major titles, but remarkably opted to miss last year’s championship to attend the high school graduation of his daughter Amanda, who was born the day after he finished second to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999.
At the time it was easy to suggest the 47-year-old’s chances of a first win since 2013 at Erin Hills were pretty slim, but the left-hander returned to the winner’s circle this season in the WGC-Mexico Championship and has recorded four other top-six finishes.
Can US dominance of the majors be broken?
Patrick Reed’s victory in the Masters means American players currently hold all four major titles, with Koepka defending his US Open crown and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas the reigning Open and US PGA champions respectively.
However, European players won the US Open four times in five years from 2010, while Shane Lowry held a four-shot lead after 54 holes in 2016 before finishing second and Tommy Fleetwood was fourth last year.
Is a shock winner possible?
Since Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley won the last two majors of 2011 when ranked 111th and 108th in the world respectively, the lowest-ranked winner of any major has been Jimmy Walker, who was 48th when he won the 2016 US PGA Championship.
The 2017 major winners were ranked 11th, 22nd, third and 14th, while Reed was 24th before his victory in the Masters in April.
The days of Ben Curtis (396), Shaun Micheel (169) and YE Yang (110) appear to be over.
Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second PGA Tour title after winning the Memorial Tournament following a play-off at Muirfield Village.
DeChambeau, who won last year’s John Deere Classic, looked to have blown his chance after three-putting the 18th as his fourth-round lead was wiped out by Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley in the closing stages.
That saw the trio all finish on 15 under and set up a three-way play-off.
Stanley’s bogey five at the first extra hole saw his challenge come to an end, with pars from DeChambeau and An sending them down the 18th for a third successive time.
On that occasion it was overnight leader DeChambeau who held his nerve to hole a 12-foot birdie putt and clinch the title ahead of a star-studded field.
The 24-year-old Californian was congratulated by tournament host Jack Nicklaus following the win and he told Sky Sports: “I feel real honour to be the champion this year.
“He (Nicklaus) puts on an amazing event. I played here a couple of years ago and was fortunate enough to get a sponsor’s invite from him, so I’m forever in his debt.”
DeChambeau did concede, though, that he had not been at his best, saying: “I just wasn’t comfortable all day for some reason. I was fortunate enough to scrap around the golf course and get it done this week.”
Patrick Cantlay was fourth on 14 under, just ahead of Peter Uihlein, whose six-under-par 66 was only eclipsed by Louis Oosthuizen’s 65.
England’s Justin Rose (70) had to settle for joint sixth on 12 under, one shot ahead of an illustrious group that included Dustin Johnson (67), Justin Thomas (68), Rickie Fowler (68) and Rory McIlroy (69).
Tiger Woods finished on nine under after signing off with a level-par 72.