The first day of the 2014 U.S. Open featured plenty of ups and downs for each competitor, but Martin Kaymer took the lead with an impressive 65. The question is whether he can keep it up for three more rounds.
On a relatively difficult course that features narrow fairways and greens that are tough to read, it is hard to imagine anyone pulling away from the pack before the end of the weekend. Instead, there will be plenty of changes to the leaderboard in the coming days.
With plenty of talented players just off the lead and others attempting to recover from poor opening rounds, there will certainly be plenty to watch on Day 2.
Here is a look at the updated leaderboard for the U.S. Open with a breakdown of the top storylines to follow on Friday.
Can Martin Kaymer Keep It Up?
Although Kaymer has been playing well lately, few could have predicted his performance in the first round at Pinehurst. After a solid start to the day with a 35 on the front nine, he was unstoppable on the back nine with four birdies and no bogeys, totaling a 65.
This is the third U.S. Open to take place on this course, and Kaymer posted the lowest single-day score of them all.
Unsurprisingly, he was happy about his performance after the round, via Golf Digest:
In reality, the effort was even better than what Kaymer expected, as pointed out by Jason Sobel of Golf Channel:
Martin Kaymer was asked yesterday to predict the winning score. His answer: 8-over. So, yeah... a 5-under 65 is pretty good.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 12, 2014
Kaymer won The Players Championship this year, so it is clear he has the skill necessary to win a tournament of this magnitude. However, it does not seem likely that he will be able to keep posting birdies at this rate.
The key for him going forward will simply be to keep avoiding really bad holes that could cut his lead and send him back to the rest of the pack.
Which Players Will Climb Up the Leaderboard?
A number of big names sitting just off the lead should be able to remain in contention throughout the weekend. The group of golfers four strokes back is especially impressive, including Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.
All of these players remain in the must-see category, as they have a chance to make a run toward the lead.
One of the more exciting groups to follow in this tournament is the young trio of Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler. This group of players 25 years old or younger combined to two under, with Fowler the only one not in the red at even par.
Spieth explained why this pairing is helping all of them, via Sobel: It was a lot of fun. Both of those guys played really well, so we were able to feed off each other. You just want to see some putts go in at a venue like this. You just want to see any putts going in, so you know you can make them.
The 20-year-old has been one of the top golfers in the world over the past year and always seems to be in contention. While the stage has gotten bigger, Spieth has shown that he can handle the pressure and should be able to challenge for a major title.
Still, the top player to keep an eye on is Phil Mickelson. The six-time runner-up at this event is trying to complete his Grand Slam, and he is off to a solid start with an even par in Round 1.
He was accurate with his driver and did a great job of getting himself onto the green, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Phil Mickelson hit 13 greens in regulation today, most he’s hit in 9 career U.S. Open rounds at Pinehurst (previous best was 12 in 1999).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 12, 2014
With his experience, Mickelson has as good a chance as anyone at coming away with a win.
Can Big Names Recover After Poor Starts?
Although Rory McIlroy is still in contention, he will need to do better than the 71 he shot in Round 1. He only had three bogeys, but he really cost himself with poor putting throughout the day.
Consistency is not necessarily one of McIlroy's strengths, but he has to at least find a way to avoid poor holes if he wants to move back up the leaderboard.
Of course, he had a better day than Adam Scott, who finished three strokes over par with a 73. He only had a single birdie, on No. 5, and he totaled four bogeys with wild play throughout. Then again, this tournament has not been too kind to the No. 1 player in the world:
Last #1 player in world not named Tiger to win a major..Fred Couples 1992. Adam Scott says loves Pinehurst #2 reminds him of Australia— Ryan Burr (@RyanBurr) June 11, 2014
Bubba Watson also had a rough day with a 76, finishing tied for 122nd at the end of Round 1. The two-time Masters champion struggled to get on the fairway, which is deadly at any U.S. Open but especially at Pinehurst.
Unless he can find his accuracy off the tee, he will not see the weekend.
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