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US Open Golf 2014: Final Reaction to End-of-Day 1 Leaderboard

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US Open Golf 2014: Final Reaction to End-of-Day 1 Leaderboard
David Goldman/Associated Press

The top golfers in the world stepped up to Pinehurst No. 2 attempting to become the next U.S. Open champion, but many of them were humbled from the experience.

Big names like Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson all finished the day above par after inconsistent days. Many others struggled to handle the narrow fairways and unforgiving greens that usually make this tournament so difficult.

On the other hand, there were some players who found success in the first round. Although it is a long event, these men put themselves in good position to remain in contention throughout the weekend.

Here is an updated look at the leaderboard along with a breakdown of the top performers from Round 1:

 

Martin Kaymer Out in Front

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As everyone else seemed to have problem with this course, Martin Kaymer cruised to a 65 to start off his tournament in style. 

After posting a solid 34 on the front nine, the German came alive with a flawless back nine that featured four birdies. This gave him the best score ever at this course at the U.S. Open:

Shane Bacon of Yahoo! joked about this course being too easy for Kaymer:

Kaymer has been playing very well this season, especially in big tournaments. In fact, Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel notes that he could put himself in a class of his own this weekend:

It seems very unlikely that anyone can post scores this low on such a difficult course for four days. However, he has given himself quite a lead that he will look to maintain over the next three rounds.

As long as he can remain consistent and avoid mistakes, he has a good chance of coming away with a victory.

 

Just off the Lead

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

While you will see a lot of up-and-down play at the U.S. Open, Graeme McDowell succeeded by being as consistent as possible. 

The veteran did have one eagle on No. 5, but the rest of the day featured just one bogey and one birdie, giving him a score of 68. ESPN Stats and Info pointed out that his accuracy made the difference:

After the round, McDowell compared his performance to McIlroy, who finished with a 71 playing in the same group, via Paul Newberry of the Associated Press:

It wasn't my best ball-striking display. You don't have to strike it amazing around here. You just have to position the ball correctly at all times.

I played the golf course very conservatively, if you compare my round to Rory's round. I generally kept the ball exactly where I wanted going into the flags, short of a lot of greens but on the correct side of most of the flags.

Putting the ball in the right spot goes a long way on this course, and it helped the Northern Irishman remain in contention.

On the other hand, Kevin Na also finished his day at two-under, but he took a stranger path to this mark. His three birdies were canceled out by three bogeys, but his eagle helped him remain under par. While inconsistent, this was Na's best showing in his career at the U.S. Open:

Unfortunately, birdies will be tough to come by in this event, meaning he will need to gain more consistency if he wants to remain in contention. The same goes for Brendon de Jonge, who had two bogeys to go with his four birdies on the day.

Still, this trio can all challenge Kaymer for the top spot in this tournament.

 

Top Players Also in Contention

David Goldman/Associated Press

Just past the top players on the leaderboard are some familiar names that could easily challenge for a title if they pick things up over the next few days.

Matt Kuchar is one of the top competitors in this group after having such a good start to the 2014 season. He had three birdies on the front nine and avoided mistakes to put himself on top of the leaderboard for a moment.

According to Bob Weeks of TSN, Kuchar was overconfident at this point:

This led to problems as back-to-back bogeys on No. 16 and 17 dropped him back to one-under for the round. If he wants to climb up the leaderboard, he cannot lose focus at the end of rounds.

Meanwhile, fan-favorite Jordan Spieth continues to impress at the major despite being just 20 years old. Steve Tannen of 95.3 The Score noted the consistency of the youngster:

Of course, he is not the only young player excelling at Pinehurst. Hideki Matsuyama finished with a 69 in a group with Spieth and Rickie Fowler, all of whom had a solid first day. 

There are also plenty of experienced golfers looking to remain in the hunt, like Henrik Stenson, Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley. Each of these players know what it takes to compete at a major and should be able to build off their strong starts to challenge Kaymer going forward.

 

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