We're underway at Pinehurst for the 2014 U.S. Open, and Day 1 of the tournament delivered some impressive showings from a few underdogs within the competitive field.
Even without Tiger Woods, the field at Pinehurst has a ton of talent. Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott are all looking to string together four consecutive days of top-notch golf, while other guys like Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Graeme McDowell are looking to surprise the favorites.
Pinehurst is a difficult course that creates illusions of spacious, safe landings on the fairways. The fairways aren't actually as large as they appear, however, so the smartest golfer—not the best—could very well be the one that wins the season's second major.
Below you'll see how Day 1 of the tournament played out.
Come back here after play officially ends on Day 1 to see the updated standings. The above graphic will update throughout the day.
Important Day 1 Scores
Two players stuck out on Day 1—McDowell and Kevin Na.
McDowell, the winner of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, knew coming into Day 1 that Pinehurst would be a tough play. He echoed the strategy outlined above, courtesy of the Associated Press, via Golf.com: "You don't have to strike it amazing around here. You just have to position the ball correctly at all times."
He certainly did just that, as ESPN Stats & Info's official Twitter account pointed out following his round:
Graeme McDowell hit 13 of 14 fairways today. He never hit more than 8 fairways in a round when he played at Pinehurst in 2005.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 12, 2014
McDowell finished the round with a two-under 68. Na also fired a 68.
Na was humble following the great performance on Thursday, telling the Associated Press, via Golf.com, that he was the benefactor of favorable conditions:
There was some moisture on the greens and you were able to hold shots. I was able to capitalize on a good tee time. But there's a long way to go. Obviously, I'm 2-under par right now, but at the end of the tournament even par is going to win this championship.
Whether or not these two are in contention for the title on Day 4 remains to be seen, but barring an implosion on Friday, both golfers will likely be taking part of Day 3 action on Saturday.
Will Justin Rose repeat as champion?
Trailing McDowell and Na with 69s are Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Brendon Todd, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth and others.
Justin Rose, last year's champion, is looking to become the first man to win consecutive U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange won his second in a row in 1989. He shot a 72 on Day 1, though it was almost three shots better because of this near-ace.
Rose came close to acing hole No. 17 before the ball continued to roll and landed in the bunker. He completed the hole in four strokes.
Day 2 will be important for those at the bottom of the standings. Without strong rebounds, they'll be going home early.