As the glimmering sun rays peered through the array of majestic Carolina pines at Pinehurst No. 2, the centerpiece of the 107-year old resort, the world's top players vied for the title of the United States Open Champion. Gone are the acres of velvet green Bermuda grass and replaced by the Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw restoration of the natural and strategic characteristics originally the essence of the Donald Ross design masterpiece - a reintroduction of hardpan, native waste areas and indigenous wire grass that grows throughout the Sandhills region. The 114th American Open Championship will undoubtedly identify the top player on Father's Day Sunday leaving a trail of veteran golfers, tour champions and amateur entrants in its wake. Half of the field completed their inaugural round by the time VT alum Brendon de Jonge teed off the 617 yard par 5 10th at 1:14pm today with Kevin Stadler and Ireland's Shane Lowry.
From threatening skies earlier this week to the benign conditions and blue skies today, the course laid down quite nicely for the morning wave of golfers attempting to prove their mettle against one of the most rigorous tests in American golf. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, the man charged with setting up Open venues to test player's skills, nerves and temperaments, actually shocked the golfing world by eliminating the rough at the Open in its entirety. We've come to know of second cut, intermediate rough and hay has given way to a reincarnation of a time long since forgotten some 100 years ago when Francis Ouimet won, the only first timer and 2nd amateur to ever win the Championship.
Is the course too easy on day one? Possibly given the grounds crews have soaked the green complexes, pushed forward several tee areas and putting surfaces only running 10.5 on the stimpmeter. Keeping in mind immediately following the 114th Open, the USGA flips the logos over for the distaff members to the 69th US Women's Open Championship, a first for one venue to host back-to-back events.
Call it nerves, call it a rough start or just sheer bad luck, Brendon started off the day with bogey-bogey before settling in with par on 12. Even though #10 is a birdie hole, it's still 693 yards long and #11 is a ball busting 493 yard par 4. Welcome to the US Open! You will be penalized for hitting a good shot, that's a guarantee- get used to it! Two solid shots and a good putt led to his first of three birdies that began on the par four 14th hole. With back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 Brendon made the turn at -1, just one shot behind the leaders, who were bunched up in a pack of 15. WIth five holes remainging in his first round he had played the last 11 holes in 3 under par.
On the final par five 5th hole BDJ made his fourth birdie on the day to tie for the lead at 2 under par with Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na and Martin Kaymer. At that point, they were followed by 13 players at -1 and 18 players at even par for the day. A solid approach to the par four 7th put him 12 feet below the hole with a chance to take the outright lead, but his putt slid by on the left side while Martin Kaymer made birdie on 14 to take a one stroke lead at -3 on his way to a 5 under par 65 alone atop the leaderboard. Brendon completed his first round in the 114th edition of the US Open at Pinehurst with four solid pars on his final four holes besting his lowest round in a US Open by one shot from 2010.
With round one in the books for Brendon, the numbers revealed an interesting study where he's nearly led the field with 82% GIR (greens in regulation) besting the field average of 58%, a flawless round off the tee hitting 93% of fairways missing only one vs the field's 71%, clean through the bunkers with none found and a respectable putting average of 1.71 putts totaling 31. His consistent ball striking and blue collar-like putting served him well for his second US Open Championship. However, even with round one's benign temperament, he easily left 4 strokes out there, but one cannot be greedy. Friday's tee time of 7:29am from #1 will serve "the Fat Guys" just fine as Brendon laughed off the mockery, and we look forward to another consistent trip around the famed track