Jun 16, 2022; Brookline, Massachusetts, USA; A view of the US Open signage during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament. Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
The U.S. Open returned to The Country Club on Thursday for the first time since 1988. Here are three takeaways from the first round of the tournament:
BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the 13th tee during round one of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 16, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Fresh off his win at the Canadian Open, Rory McIlroy opened his tournament with a 3 under par 67. Rory’s putter was on fire, most notably sinking a 15-foot par save on the Par 3 2nd hole after missing the green off the tee and scrambling for a par save on the short Par 4 5th hole.
McIlroy may have closed his round with a disappointing bogey, but carded 4 birdies to send him to the clubhouse after a strong first round.
Rory has been one of the best golfers on Tour this season and perhaps has been the best golfer in the world since his Sunday round at the Masters, when he shot an Augusta record-tying 64 to finish second behind Scottie Scheffler. McIlroy, 33, said earlier this week that he feels his best golf is still ahead of him. He is one of three golfers in the history of the sport, along with Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, to win 4 majors before turning 25, but has not won a major since 2014. Winning this tournament would be a statement that he is still capable of racking up more majors as he moves deeper into his 30’s.
McIlroy should be considered the golfer to watch heading into the second round.
BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Phil Mickelson of the United States watches his second shot on the 18th hole during round one of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 16, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
As well as McIlroy played, Phil Mickelson was just as bad. The 52 year old six-time major winner is only missing a U.S. Open title in his pursuit for a career slam, but a disastrous four-putt on the par 3 6th hole practically ended Lefty’s tournament before it even began.
Mickelson is one of golf’s biggest names and is only a year removed from winning the PGA Championship, but he is far from playing winning golf at this point. He finished the round 8 over par, carding five bogeys and two double bogeys.
Mickelson is also the most high-profile golfer to defect to the LIV golf series, which could jeopardize his ability to compete at the U.S. Open and other majors in the future. There is no doubt that Lefty has been an important figure in the golf world for more than two decades, but the U.S. Open won’t be any worse for the wear should Phil fail to make the cut on Friday.
A course worthy of the U.S. Open
BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: A general view is seen as Scottie Scheffler of the United States putts on the third green during round one of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 16, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
If the U.S. Open is supposed to be the toughest test in golf, then The Country Club unsurprisingly proved itself as an extremely worthy venue for that test. In recent years, the USGA has tried to work newer courses into the rotation, but the results have been shaky at best. Washington State’s Chambers Bay in 2015 proved to be gimmicky with its greens, and players dominated Erin Hills in Wisconsin in 2016 with its aircraft carrier-wide fairways (Brooks Koepka won the tournament at 16 under par). There’s something to be said for tried and true courses, and the Country Club, with its high rough and collection of blind shots, offered a tough but fair challenge for the best players in the world.
The U.S. Open hasn’t been played in Brookline since 1988. The USGA should not wait another 34 years before returning again.