U.S. Open 2014 Results: Biggest Winners and Losers from Day 1
The first round of the 2014 U.S. Open golf tournament is in the books, and guess what?
After all the talk about how much more difficult Pinehurst No. 2 was going to play after drastic renovations, scores were about the same for the first round this time as they were when the Open was played there both in 1999 and 2005.
And there were more scores in the 60s than in the first rounds of the last two U.S. Open tournaments played at Merion and The Olympic Club, respectively.
It helped Thursday morning that the course was moist after an overnight watering and early cloudy conditions that kept it from getting baked out. That might change as the tournament rolls on—but in the meantime, the holes all played about the same for everyone who competed, whether they teed off in the morning or later in the afternoon after the sun had emerged from under the cloud cover.
Read on to see who were the biggest winners and losers during the opening 18 holes.
Winner: Martin Kaymer
Of course Martin Kaymer is one of the biggest winners of Day 1 of the 2014 U.S. Open.
He shot a five-under 65 and leads the rest of the field by three shots. The German birdied three of the last five holes to end the day in a rush and give himself a round that is the lowest of any played in the three U.S. Opens that have been held on Pinehurst No. 2.
Kaymer credited the win he registered last month in The Players Championship, which ended an 18-month winless drought, for giving him the confidence he needed to play well in this Open.
"I needed a win,'' Kaymer told The Associated Press, via Yahoo Sports. ''Whether it was The Players or a regular PGA Tour event, I just needed it for my confidence, for all the hard work I've put in the last couple of years.''
He still has a long way to go, but now he's knocking on the door of another, bigger one.
Loser: Justin Rose
The defending U.S. Open champion, Justin Rose got off to a rough start with four bogeys on his front nine before rallying a bit over his final nine to finish with a two-over 72.
And while it's difficult to say that's a losing day, the fact is that at times Rose looked completely lost, and he's now seven strokes off the pace being set by first-round leader Martin Kaymer. That will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to successfully defend his title.
Then again, he seemed a little bent out of shape about the term "defending champion" before even striking his first shot Thursday.
“And for me being defending champion? I don't even like that word: defending. Because it puts you already behind the eight ball," he told the Chicago Tribune a day earlier. "You don't want to be out there being defensive at all."
One more front nine like the one he had Thursday, and he won't have to worry about it much longer.
Winner: Kevin Na
No matter what he does, almost every golf conversation involving Kevin Na contains some reference to the score he registered on the par-four ninth hole at the Valero Texas Open in 2011.
Who can forget that disaster, when Na recorded a 16 on the hole? The good news is that he played the other 17 holes that day in four under, so his score for the round was an 80—not nearly as bad as it could have been.
But we digress. The Na of No. 9 at the 2011 Valero Texas Open was nowhere to be found at Pinehurst No. 2 on Thursday. Na drove the ball particularly well, rarely got in any trouble, and finished in a tie for second with Graeme McDowell and Brendon de Jonge after shooting a two-under 68.
Na told reporters after his round that he benefitted from an early tee time.
"There was some moisture on the greens and you were able to hold shots," Na told the AP, via The Herald-Standard. "I was able to capitalize on a good tee time. But there's a long way to go. Obviously, I'm two under par right now, but at the end of the tournament even par is going to win this championship."
Loser: Bubba Watson
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson made it clear that he wasn't too enamored with the new setup of the Pinehurst No. 2 course during practice rounds earlier in the week.
Then he went out and played like a golfer who didn't want to be on it. Watson struggled mightily throughout his entire round, constantly finding the wastelands that lined the course in place of the usual rough, en route to a six-over 76.
Watson had told Fox Sports that his plan would be to lay back on his tee shots and try to avoid trouble that way, but his strategy seemed flawed from the beginning and did not work when he consistently failed to hit greens in regulation.
He took a double-bogey seven on the par-five 10th and did not make his one and only birdie until the 16th hole.
Winner: Jordan Spieth
While it seems he's too young to keep contending in all these majors at age 20, Jordan Spieth keeps displaying the rare combination of talent and mental toughness that frequently proves naysayers wrong.
He did it again on Thursday, firing a one-under 69 that left him tied for sixth in a logjam with nine other golfers.
Of the 10 who shot 69 in the opening round, though, Spieth seemed to do it with the most ease. He ended the day with four birdies and three bogeys—and what was most impressive was that every time he encountered trouble and made a bogey, he never let it adversely affect his next shot or his next hole.
In fact, every time he made bogey, he responded with a birdie within three holes or fewer. If you didn't know he was 20 and he didn't look like it, you would swear he was a 10-year PGA veteran who already has won a couple of these things.
Loser: Luke Donald
It's getting harder and harder to believe that Luke Donald was once the world's No. 1-ranked player.
He entered this season supposedly armed with a new swing constructed by a new coach who had imparted a new attitude on the slumping golfer. But on Thursday, sadly, Donald simply experienced more of the same type of frustration and disappointment that has marred his game recently.
It's true that twice earlier this year he was in contention in tournaments—finishing fourth at the Valspar Open in March and second in the RBC Heritage in April, respectively, to revive talk that he might be back at the top of his once-brilliant game.
But he made a mess of it in the opening round Thursday, shooting a seven-over 77 that currently has him tied for 134th.
Winner: Matt Fitzpatrick
Never heard of Matt Fitzpatrick? Well, he is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion so you might have—and if not, you soon will as he's about to turn professional.
But that's not the story here.
It wasn't just that Fitzpatrick was the low amateur in Thursday's opening round, shooting a rock-solid one-over 71 on a difficult track. It was how he conducted himself that made him one of the day's biggest winners.
As he prepared to hit his third shot on the eighth hole—the 17th hole of the day for him—he inadvertently brushed the ball on a practice swing. The ball barely moved, but Fitzpatrick did not hesitate in calling in a rules official to call a one-stroke penalty on himself.
It was the classy and right thing to do on one of the biggest world stages in golf. It won't be forgotten as he moves forward in his career—plus it means he actually should have shot a 70, which would have had him just five shots off the lead.
Loser: Brandt Snedeker
Wait a minute. How can we call Brandt Snedeker one of the biggest losers on the day when he shot a one-under 69 that puts him squarely in contention, only four shots off the lead?
Easy. Because at one point he was four under on the front nine and looking like he was about to go lower, and then he fell apart over the next three holes.
After missing a short putt on No. 9 that would have taken him to five under and three shots clear of the rest of the field at the time, Snedeker opened his back nine with a bogey on the par-five 10th, a double bogey on the par-four 11th and another bogey on the par-four 12th.
He did make two birdies down the stretch to steady himself and minimize the damage, but the bottom line is that he shot 69 on a day when he should have probably shot 65. That likely will cost him in the long run.
Winner: Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell, who won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010, was steady on a day when steady paid huge dividends.
Even when he found himself in what seemed to be a troublesome spot, McDowell never tried to do too much and calmly played his way out of it with the minimum amount of damage on his way to a two-under-par 68.
The native of Northern Ireland quickly bounced back from his only bogey of the day on Hole No. 4 with an eagle-three at the par-five fifth. He added a birdie at No. 14 and the rest of his card was filled with pars. There is an old saying that pars win U.S. Open championships.
"You don't have to strike it amazing around here," McDowell told the AP, via The Herald-Standard. "You just have to position the ball correctly at all times."
Sounds easy enough, and McDowell made it look that way.
Loser: Lee Westwood
You would think that if Pinehurst No. 2 was going to play like a British Open course, then it would play to the advantage of Lee Westwood.
But maybe Westwood has become too Americanized after moving to Florida recently to hone his game. He used to live in a place called Worksop, England, but said that it was a relatively easy decision to move to the United States and sunny Florida in March of 2013.
"It wasn't a tough sell," Westwood told ESPN.com. "Do you want to go and live by the sea and the sun by the beach? It was a pretty quick take-up."
It didn't do much for his game on Thursday. After 17 top-10 finishes in his career in majors, he and some others figured this might be just the place for Westwood to break through—but he struggled to a five-over 75 that left him tied for 106th place after Day 1.
Winner: Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler's opening round score of 70 was solid, but not spectacular.
But his decision to wear knickers in honor of the late Payne Stewart, who won the 1999 U.S. Open in dramatic fashion at Pinehurst No. 2 while wearing similar attire, deserves a nod.
"I’ve really been looking forward to wearing this outfit," Fowler told Todd Lewis of the Golf Channel, via USA Today. "It’s been hard to keep a secret. Payne Stewart was on of my idols."
Well, it was a classy move and one that will be remembered. Plus, let's face it: Fowler looked pretty good in those knickers. Payne would have been proud.