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US Open Russell Henley tops leaderboard after first day at in La Jolla

US Open Russell Henley tops leaderboard after first day at  in La Jolla

US Open leaderboard, us open 2021, us open golf, Phil Mickelson, Torrey Pines, Brooks Koepka, PGA

US Open Russell Henley tops leaderboard after first day at in La Jolla

Russell Henley and Louis Oosthuizen tied for lead at U.S. Open; 1st … Thu, 17 Jun 2021 06:00:00 -0700-Russell Henley played in the Farmers Insurance Open at La Jolla's Torrey Pines Golf Course in 2014, in his third year as a pro after a decorated college career …

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Russell Henley tops leaderboard after first day at U.S. Open in La Jolla

June 18, 2021

Russell Henley played in the Farmers Insurance Open at La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Golf Course in 2014, in his third year as a pro after a decorated college career at Georgia. He made a 40-foot birdie putt on 18 just to break 80 on the South Course. Missed the cut by six strokes.

“I don’t really remember [much] besides just leaving the course feeling like I just got beat up,” Henley said. “I played it that one time and really struggled, and it was like, well, I’ll just not play it from now on.”

So he didn’t.

He returned to Torrey Pines this week after sneaking into the U.S. Open, ranking 59th in late May when the top 60 received exemptions (before slipping to his current 63rd).

His experience has been a little different this time.

Henley shot a 4-under 67 to take the first-round lead June 17 after a morning fog delay that lasted 90 minutes.

Also at 4 under was South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, who didn’t tee off until after 3 p.m. and had two holes left when play was suspended just before 8 p.m. Players were allowed to finish their current hole (and Rory McIlroy’s group quickly hit their tee shots on 18 even though Sergio Garcia, in the group ahead, was still on the fairway).

Oosthuizen and Henley were unexpected figures atop the leaderboard. Oosthuizen because he has never led a major after the first round in his previous 49 starts. Henley because he has no top 10s and eight missed cuts in 26 career appearances in majors.

As a college junior, Henley tied for low amateur at the 2010 U.S. Open but never finished higher than 25th as a pro. He didn’t qualify in 2019 and 2020.

“I don’t feel like it’s a huge surprise just because I do feel like I’ve played some good golf in some bigger events in the last year,” said Henley, 32, who last won on the PGA Tour in 2017. “But in terms of putting four rounds together at a U.S. Open, I’ve struggled with that. So I’m just going to keep trying. I’m just trying to hang in there.”

Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello were at 3 under. Lurking at 2 under were San Diego’s Xander Schauffele, two-time U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka, reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and pre-tournament favorite Jon Rahm.

Xander Schauffele tees off on the third hole during the first round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course on June 17.

McIlroy, running from the fairway to the green in the fading light, birdied 18 to reach 1 under.

Rahm also raced to finish and also birdied his final hole.

Defending U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau needed a late birdie to get to a 2-over 73, then went immediately to the range to hit balls in the dark.

The 36 players who didn’t finish, some with as many as six holes left, will resume play beginning at 6:50 a.m. Friday, June 18.

The fog delay was a nuisance for spectators, particularly those who sleep in their cars to get coveted “dawn patrol” tee times at Torrey Pines, regardless of June gloom visibility.

The marine layer retreated by mid-morning to create clear, calm conditions. The weather changed again as evening approached, with the wind dying down but temperatures falling.

There were 19 scores under par and four more still on the course when darkness fell. In the 2008 U.S. Open here, there were 11 total in the first round. ◆


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Russell Henley tops leaderboard after first day at U.S. Open in La Jolla Thu, 17 Jun 2021 06:00:00 -0700-Russell Henley and Louis Oosthuizen are tied for the lead at the U.S. Open. First-round play in San Diego was suspended because of darkness on Thursday.

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Russell Henley and Louis Oosthuizen tied for lead at U.S. Open; 1st round suspended because of darkness

11:38 PM ET

SAN DIEGO — Once the fog finally lifted over Torrey Pines, a familiar figure in the U.S. Open was plain to see.

A long Thursday ended in darkness with Russell Henley in the lead and Louis Oosthuizen poised to join him when the fog-delayed opening round wrapped up Friday morning. There were a few surprises, typical of the start at most majors.

And there was Brooks Koepka.

In the U.S. Open, there is always Brooks Koepka.

“Not the best,'' he said. “But I'll definitely take it.''

With a simple plan and solid execution for most any U.S. Open course, Koepka shot 2-under 69 to extend his incredible record. It was his sixth consecutive round in the 60s at the major with a reputation for being golf's toughest test.

Dating to the final round at Oakmont, 11 of his past 14 rounds have been in the 60s in the Open.

“I've just got a good game plan, focused, I know what I'm doing, and I don't try to do anything I can't,'' Koepka said. “It's just all about discipline in a U.S. Open. That's I guess the gist of it.''

Oosthuizen was among 36 players who failed to finish because of the 90-minute fog delay at the start. They were to resume Friday morning and then head right into their second rounds.

Henley's first visit in seven years to the rough-and-tumble South course at Torrey Pines went a lot better than the last time, especially under the circumstances. Anything around par never hurts in a U.S. Open, and his 4-under 67 was 12 shots better than his one-and-done appearance in the PGA Tour stop.

Oosthuizen, a runner-up at the PGA Championship last month at Kiawah Island, was at 4 under and had two holes remaining.

The course was as tough as advertised. The wind was a little more than expected, and it doesn't take much to add to the challenge.

“If it's blowing like this the whole week, it's just going to be a hard week. That's kind of what you want in a U.S. Open, though, right?'' Henley said.

Henley got up-and-down by holing a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole for a 1-shot lead over Francesco Molinari and Rafa Cabrera Bello, among those who finished.

Koepka, with two wins and a silver medal in his past three U.S. Opens, was joined at 69 by the likes of Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, San Diego native Xander Schauffele and Hayden Buckley, who plays the Korn Ferry Tour and made his major championship debut.

“Any time in a U.S. Open you're under par it's a great start and today was just that,'' Rahm said.

Sebastian Munoz also was 2 under and had four holes remaining.

The difference between Torrey Pines for a PGA Tour stop in January and Torrey for the toughest test in golf? Henley couldn't say. He has played the Farmers Insurance Open only one time, in 2014, and it was memorable for the wrong reasons. He holed a 40-foot shot on the 18th hole for birdie to break 80.

That's about all he remembers except for “leaving the course feeling like I just got beat up.''

There was plenty of bruising going on Thursday in the U.S. Open.

Former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson had to birdie the last hole to break 80. Jordan Spieth opened with a 77 — he now is 25 over par in his past four U.S. Open rounds. Max Homa four-putted from 20 feet for triple bogey on No. 12 and three-putted for double bogey on No. 14 on his way to a 76.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau pounded driver and did plenty of gouging from the rough, though Torrey Pines doesn't seem quite as suitable for the style he so beautifully executed at Winged Foot last September in a 6-shot victory. DeChambeau had to play the final five holes in 2 under to salvage a 73.

PGA champion Phil Mickelson, who turned 51 on Wednesday, shot a 75 on Thursday. That's not the start he hoped for in his bid to finally get a U.S. Open title for the career Grand Slam. What bothered him were two soft bogeys toward the end of his round.

“Look, it's part of this tournament, and I was able to go without any doubles. I just didn't make enough birdies to offset it,'' Mickelson said.

Rory McIlroy birdied his final hole in near darkness for a 70, a good sign for a player who has fallen behind too far in too many first rounds at majors. Dustin Johnson had a 71 with one birdie and one bogey, nothing dynamic but suitable for a U.S. Open.

There were a few cheers for “Bryson” directed at Koepka as fans tried to keep their feud going, though Koepka didn't appear to be the least bit distracted. This is a major, and he showed why he's called “Big Game Brooks'' when the biggest tournaments roll around.

Koepka has beaten 464 of the 465 players he has faced in the past three U.S. Opens he played. He sat out Winged Foot last year with injuries to his left knee and hip.

For so much of the day, Koepka made it look easy by keeping it in the short grass, off the tee and on the green. He was bogey-free and 4 under through 11 holes when he missed the green on the par-3 third and made bogey, and he dropped another shot on the sixth, which has been converted to a par-4 for the U.S. Open.

Even so, it was a solid start for Koepka, a four-time major champion coming off a runner-up finish to Mickelson at the PGA Championship. It wasn't easy. He made it sound that way.

“It's pretty simple. It's a lot simpler than what guys make it,'' Koepka said. “I think a lot of guys make it more difficult than it needs to be. Just got to understand where the flag is, what you're doing and where to miss it.''

The surprise might have been Molinari, the former British Open champion who has not been the same since losing a 2-shot lead on the back nine at the Masters two years ago that paved the way for Tiger Woods to slip on another green jacket.

The Italian had to pull out of the PGA Championship with a sore back. He mentioned other nagging injuries. He has had three top-10s this year. He also has missed the cut in three of the past four tournaments he played. But he was solid at Torrey, and two birdies over his last three allowed him to match his best start in a U.S. Open.

“There's no tricks. You need to grind and fight for 18 holes and then relax until tomorrow and start over again,'' he said. “I haven't played recently, so it's nice to get off to a good start, but there's a long way to go. Start over tomorrow like nothing happened today.''


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– June 17, 2021
US Open leaderboard, us open 2021, us open golf, Phil Mickelson, Torrey Pines, Brooks Koepka, PGA

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