There is good news and bad news for Michael Thompson…
First, the good news: in his very first U.S. Open, Thompson has the lead after the first round, and he leads by three shots.
The bad news: he is the first-round leader in the U.S. Open.
History has not been kind to first-round leaders in the U.S. Open. In fact, in the past 25 years, only five first-round leaders have gone on to win the tournament. Rory McIlroy was a wire-to-wire winner last year. The others: Tiger Woods, 2002; Retief Goosen, 2001; Tiger Woods, 2000; and Payne Stewart, 1991.
Speaking of Tiger, he is three shots back, tied for second place. Since 1987, 15 of the 25 men who won the event were in the Top 10 after the first round. Good news for Tiger…and about 13 other golfers.
Taking a look at the last 25 U.S. Open champions, we see that the second round is key to their tournament. In 12 of the 25 of the champions rounds, the second round was their lowest score of the four rounds. The first round was the lowest round for six champions; the third round was lowest round for two champs; and the fourth round was the lowest round for one champion. For four champions, their lowest round was a tie between two different rounds. (For the record, the second round was tied in three of those four, meaning that 15 of the 25 champions had their lowest round or tied for the lowest round on Day 2 of the tournament.)
Following is a look at which rounds the last 25 champions had the best average round from 1987-2011.
Average score per round of champion in last 25 U.S. Opens
First Round: 69.44
Second Round: 68.04
Third Round: 70.48
Fourth Round: 70.36
(A note of interest: Did you notice that the average first-round score of the eventual winner was 69.44? Tiger shot 69 yesterday! I’m just saying.)
The U.S. Open winner from 1987-2011 (25 champions) scored lower in the second round over the first round in 14 of the 25 years (the champion shot the same score in both first and second rounds in one year). In 11 of those 14 second rounds, the score was at least three strokes lower than Round One.
Here’s a look at which round the last 25 U.S. Open champions had the most rounds in the 60s.
Rounds in the 60s
First Round: 12
Second Round: 18
Third Round: 9
Fourth Round: 11
Did you know? Only two U.S. Open champions in the last 25 years has shot in the 60s in each of their four rounds. Rory McIlroy did it last year with 65-66-68 and 69 on the way to his eight-stroke victory, and Lee Janzen had four rounds in the 60s when he shot 67-67-69-69 in his two-stroke win over Payne Stewart in 1993.