BROOKLINE, Mass. – Justin Thomas has started the 2022 US Open almost exactly the same way he started the 2022 PGA Championship, which he won a month ago at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In that event, Thomas played in the toughest wave in the first round and shot 67, two behind Rory McIlroy. In this event, Thomas played in the toughest wave in the first round and shot 69, .
The difference? There is someone ahead from McIlroy this time around, leader Adam Hadwin, who shot the lone 66 from the field on Thursday. However, JT is in the perfect spot to make a run at Major No. 3 just as he was a month ago to make a run at Major No. 2.
Thomas was his usual incredible self with an iron in hand and finished sixth in approach play. His putter also stayed warm and he’s trending toward a week of positive hits for the sixth time in his last seven tournaments.
JT hasn’t let the tournament get away from him either by keeping the heavyweights in his sights. Even though Hadwin is three shots up, JT will be more concerned about who he’s tied with (Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa) and ahead of him (Dustin Johnson at 2 under, McIlroy at 3 under).
A stable newscast is a scary proposition. At the PGA in May, he was the horse that stayed in the pack all the way before closing like the thoroughbred he proved he was. You can’t always win this way, but it’s been so hot lately that it’s hard to see it fading over the next few days.
At the PGA Championship, he talked about mustering four straight 67s to win the tournament. Four straight 69s could get him close enough here. On Sunday, we could talk about Thomas being the first golfer in the past seven years (Jordan Spieth in 2015) to win back-to-back major championships.
Here are eight more thoughts on the first round of the US Open at the Country Club.
2. No more great champions hanging around: Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa both played early in the day, shooting 1 under. There were two reasons why it was impressive. First of all, Rahm nearly hit three on the 17th tee and . Second, Morikawa has said all week that he’s unable to hit a fade right now, which for the past three years has been the most reliable shot in all of golf.
“I practically only played a draw,” Morikawa said. “That was sort of the game plan. … I didn’t really need to make too many cuts. When I did, I didn’t really make them. The form of the shot today was, and it was really direct, it was like this little 2-meter draw.
“I played a lot of golf last week and a lot of holes to try and be able to trust him. I haven’t played a tie game since maybe freshman year of college. Definitely in high school. That’s different. It’s not the same confidence, but this week I have to trust him. It’s the only way for me to hit shots.”
3. Callum Tarren’s Oddity: An extremely odd part about Thursday is that Tarren, T2 after 18 holes, was above par for 12 of his first 15 holes and only below par for the last three of the day when he went birdie- eagle-by to close. You don’t see many golfers near the lead of the first round who weren’t in red numbers standing on the second to last tee of the day.
4. Hello, Dahmen: Joel Dahmen, who shot 67 on Thursday and also sits in T2, not only had the best quote of the day on Thursday, but also the top two. First, the serious: “I’m very competitive, and I believe in myself, and I hate losing. But it’s also the most fun for me when you play with the best players. I learned to play with [Jordan] Spieth in the final round near the lead twice this year, and in those days, I love that stuff. I love being in this situation. I like to be nervous. I like my hands shaking. That’s why we play the game.”
That’s awesome stuff from someone for whom a win this week would be life changing. And his quote on how he was going to spend his Thursday night sitting up top was even better: “I’ll call him a new best friend, Ben Rector; he’s a musician. I got to meet him at Pebble [Beach] this year, and he’s in town tonight. We’re going to his concert. It’s going to be hard to go to that one and not drink 100 beers like we usually do at shows.”
5. Fitz magic: Matthew Fitzpatrick, who won the 2013 US Amateur at this golf course, provided perhaps the most electric round of the afternoon wave when he shot a 2-under 68. Fitzpatrick apparently took a leap in the majors to the point where he can constantly struggle, which wasn’t necessarily true in the early part of his career. Fitzpatrick is having the statistical best season of his life, and while a final win at Brookline would be almost too on the nose, it would also be a great story.
6. Hey, Mr. DJ: The LIV Golf vs PGA Tour narrative is here to stay. One of the former’s faces, Dustin Johnson, is in the mix for his third major victory after shooting 68 in the first round. A showdown between DJ and Rory or JT – both firmly entrenched on the PGA Tour side – is almost too delicious to consider at the start of the week. This would be the first of what could be many future fights between players from both leagues. The other subplot here is that DJ hasn’t spoken publicly at a non-LIV event, but if he’s leading or near the top on Friday and beyond, he’s going to get a lot of questions about how much. point he changed the landscape of his sport. .
7. Beautiful Brookline: Thursday’s consensus was that the Country Club – which has the ambiguous “it feels like a major” in clusters – was wonderfully set up for Day 1. Thursday’s greens were slower than I expected, but even despite this and the fact that the wind had gone down early, the scoring average for the day was still 2.6 strokes over par.
“It’s very difficult,” Rahm said. “Honestly the first five holes when we had no wind, I thought we were going to blow the roof off this place. Somebody’s gonna shoot 6, 7 under if the wind doesn’t pick up, ain’t- Obviously, a well-designed golf course is always tough. When the crosswinds started coming in, it was tough.
8. Tough day for Lefty: Phil Mickelson shot 78 in the first round and beat just two of 15 amateurs on the court Thursday, which was emblematic of LIV players more broadly. The 15 golfers who play in league rival PGA Tour have fired 53 shots with only DJ and American amateur champion James Piot under par.
9. Max Homa ball strike: The best iron player on the court on Thursday was Homa, who won more than four hits on approach shots and got just one under 69. Homa was adamant about everything he learned about not having to be perfect at majors, and it’s clear from his play in recent games that this leads to playing better on the golf course. He’ll be a sneaky watch over the final three days if he continues to hit like he did over the first 18 holes.