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10 Notes To Know From Round 1

September 17, 2020 Mamaroneck, N.Y. By Justin Ray
Matthew Wolff has played just five rounds in major championships, but is hitting more than 75 percent of his greens. (Simon Bruty/USGA)

Here are 10 statistical nuggets from Thursday’s Round 1 of the 120th U.S. Open on the West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club:

1. Justin Thomas opened with 65, the lowest-ever round in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Thomas, who was a combined 19-over-par in his previous seven rounds at the U.S. Open, is the 16th player in championship history to record a Round 1 score of 65 or better. Four of the previous 15 to do it went on to win (Jack Nicklaus in 1980, Tiger Woods in 2000, Rory McIlroy in 2011 and Martin Kaymer in 2014).

2. Thomas was grouped with Tiger Woods on Thursday. From 1997 through 2017, no player shot better than 66 when grouped with Woods in a major championship. But since 2018, it has now happened five times – including twice by Thomas. From 1997-2017, players grouped with Tiger in the majors were a combined 688 over par. In the three years since, they are 48 under.

3. Matthew Wolff shot a 4-under-par 66 in his U.S. Open debut. Wolff is making major championship golf look easy: he finished tied for fourth in his first major, this year’s PGA Championship. Through five career rounds in the majors, Wolff is 14 under par, is hitting more than 74 percent of his greens in regulation, and is averaging 3.75 strokes gained tee-to-green per round.

4. Patrick Reed (66, -4) provided fireworks on Thursday morning, becoming the first player to make a hole-in-one on the seventh hole at Winged Foot in U.S. Open competition. Later in the day, Will Zalatoris replicated the feat. Both hit 9-iron on the 165-yard hole. It marked the first time since 1989 that there were two aces made on the same hole, in the same round at the U.S. Open. That year at Oak Hill, four players made a hole-in-one at the sixth hole in Round 2.

5. Rory McIlroy tied for the field lead in greens in regulation (15) en route to an opening-round 67. It’s the lowest opening round for McIlroy in a major championship since his last major victory, the 2014 PGA. In fact, each of the previous three times McIlroy opened a major with 67 or lower, he went on to win (2012 PGA, 2014 Open Championship, 2014 PGA).

6. Louis Oosthuizen shot an opening-round 67, his eighth career round of 67 or lower in the U.S. Open. Amazingly, that broke a tie with Jack Nicklaus (7) for most rounds of 67 or better in U.S. Open history.

7. Phil Mickelson had an unspectacular return to Winged Foot: Lefty recorded the worst opening-round score of his U.S. Open career (79) and hit just two fairways along the way. It was the fewest fairways Mickelson has hit in any round in a major since Sunday in the 2006 U.S. Open – also at Winged Foot.

8. With three players still left to complete the opening round, the field is on pace for a scoring average of 72.56. That would be the second-lowest Round 1 scoring average in U.S. Open history. Only 1993 at Baltusrol – which yielded an average of 72.29 – is lower historically.

9. The first hole at Winged Foot didn’t show the teeth it did back in 2006: that week it allowed only 18 birdies, yielding a scoring average of 4.47. In Thursday’s round, the field played it to an average of 3.97, with 37 birdies and an eagle.

10. Is 6 the magic number? Every U.S. Open champion since 1999 has been at or within six shots of the lead after Round 1. Each of the last 33 major winners overall were within six shots after 18 holes, as well. The average Round 1 position of the last 20 U.S. Open champions is just about 10th place (9.9, to be exact).

Justin Ray is the head of content for 15th Club. He has also worked as a senior researcher at ESPN and Golf Channel.