Shane Lowry battles back from triple-bogey for steady opening 72 at US Open

Russell Henley takes the early clubhouse lead at Torrey Pines on four under

 Shane Lowry  hits out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the first round of the  US Open at Torrey Pines. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Shane Lowry hits out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the first round of the US Open at Torrey Pines. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

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Traditionally the toughest examination of all of the men’s Major championships, a natural element was further thrown into the equation as the first round of the 121st US Open on the South Course at Torrey Pines was delayed by some 90 minutes as a fog formed on the Pacific coastline. More time to think for those with eyes on the trophy, not always a good thing if truth be told.

As it happened, those who set off in pursuit of the prize – the third Major of the men’s calendar – were presented with a tamer version of the envisaged beast. Although there proved to be the propensity for the set-up to take, it also gave. Indeed, the topsy-turvy nature of Matthew Wolff’s round only served to underscore the capacity for roller-coaster exhilaration rather than a smooth journey on the cliff-top layout.

Wolff’s round included eight birdies along with three bogeys and two double-bogeys in what seemed like a personal crusade to demonstrate just how volatile the course could be, in spite of generally pleasant conditions – with little wind – and on greens double-cut and rolled to provide a stimp speed of 13 that slowed to 12 as the day progressed. With poa annua greens, though, the tendency for bumpy journey from putter face to hole, even on short distances, added to the test of fortitude.

Russell Henley – world-ranked 63rd and without a win on the tour since the 2017 Shell Houston Open – rebounded from a missed cut in the Memorial, his last tournament outing, to claim the clubhouse lead with a four-under-par 67 that simply provided proof to the old adage that someone will always find a way to find answers to the examination. By the end of the day, Henley remained in the lead but had been joined by Louis Oosthuizen who will resume at four under par with two holes to play on Friday.

Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, ensured his chances of a fifth Major title did not disappear after one round - as has so often been the case - as he carded a one under par round of 70.

“I feel like I’m a top-50 player in the world,” insisted Henley, who believes that the examination will only get tougher as the week progresses: “I don’t know if it’s going to firm up and get baked out or stay receptive on the greens, but 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 US Open, though, right?”

For Shane Lowry, it proved to be a day to grind and showcase his own mental fortitude after a triple-bogey seven on the fourth threatened to derail the Offaly man’s quest for further Major glory before it ever got a chance to get going. Lowry hung tough to sign for a 72, one over. Still very much in it, if the truth be told.

On that par-4 fourth, Lowry’s usually reliable driving deserted him as his tee-shot found heavy rough and he was forced to take a penalty drop before playing his approach to the green where he then proceeded to four-putt from 45 feet for a seven. To his credit, he recovered with a birdie on the sixth (to add to the one he’d managed on the second) and recorded pars on the remaining three holes to turn in one-over 36.

On the back nine, Lowry – with three top-10s in his last four outings on tour, including a tied-fourth finish in last month’s US PGA – suffered a setback with a bogey on the 11th but managed to get that shot back with a birdie on the 14th as he grinded out a round to stay within touching distance. Apart from the blip on the fourth, Lowry did a lot of things well.

As Patrick Rodgers, one of those to sign for a sub-par round, a 70 in his case which put him alongside Wolff, Edoardo Molinari and Fabian Gomez within three shots of clubhouse leader Henley, put it: “I love the challenge of a US Open. I mean, of course it always has to be up to that edge to get it as difficult as it is. It’s probably the most difficult championship that we play. But I love that challenge. I feel like the tougher the golf course, the better it suits my game, and so I get excited for stuff like this.

“As far as gearing up, it just takes like a massive dose of patience, knowing that it could be a rough start, there could be a rough stretch in the middle, a rough finish, and it’s just part of playing this championship. You just got to hang in there.”

There were also strong opening rounds from past Major champions Francesco Molinari – who has moved his family to live in California – who opened with a 68, and Brooks Koepka. Although pre-round images of Koepka on the range indicated that he was having trouble with his knee, which underwent surgery back in March, there was no sign of any discomfort once he got out onto the golf course as he shot an opening 69.

Leading clubhouse scores at suspension of play on day one of US Open, Torrey Pines (South), San Diego (USA unless stated, Par 71)

67 Russell Henley

68 Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Francesco Molinari (Ita)

69 Hayden Buckley, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Jon Rahm (Spa), Xander Schauffele

70 Richard Bland (Eng), Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Fabian Gomez (Arg), Adam Hadwin (Can), Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Taylor Montgomery, Patrick Rodgers, Adam Scott (Aus), Matthew Wolff

71 Marcus Armitage (Eng), Daniel Berger, Paul Casey (Eng), Sergio Garcia (Spa), Dustin Johnson, Si Woo Kim (Kor), Andrew Kozan, Robert MacIntyre (Sco), Guido Migliozzi (Ita), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Greyson Sigg, Lee Westwood (Eng)

72 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Harris English, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Brian Harman, Tom Hoge, Shane Lowry (Irl), Adrian Meronk (Pol), Wilco Nienaber (Rsa), Wade Ormsby (Aus), J. T. Poston, Patrick Reed, Scottie Scheffler, Bubba Watson, Cameron Young

73 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Paul Barjon (Fra), Akshay Bhatia, Stewart Cink, Pierceson Coody, Bryson DeChambeau, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Kevin Kisner, Jason Kokrak, Matt Kuchar, Justin Thomas

74 Chris Baker, David Coupland (Eng), Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Viktor Hovland (Nor), Brad Kennedy (Aus), Martin Laird (Sco), Marc Leishman (Aus), Ian Poulter (Eng), Matt Sharpstene, Erik van Rooyen (Rsa), Jimmy Walker, Matt Wallace (Eng), Gary Woodland

75 Corey Conners (Can), Sung-Hoon Kang (Kor), Troy Merritt, Phil Mickelson, Collin Morikawa, Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Taylor Pendrith (Can), Victor Perez (Fra), Jhonattan Vegas (Ven), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut), Zachary Zaback, Will Zalatoris

76 Yosuke Asaji (Jpn), Cameron Champ, Roy Cootes, Garrick Higgo (Rsa), Joe Highsmith, Max Homa, Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor), Ryan Palmer, Andy Pope, Chez Reavie, Davis Shore, Henrik Stenson (Swe), Sahith Theegala

77 Luis Fernando Barco (Per), Mario Carmona, Eric Cole, Wilson Furr, Cole Hammer, Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Joe Long (Eng), Kevin Na, Sam Ryder, Jordan Smith (Eng), J. J. Spaun, Jordan Spieth, Hayden Springer

78 Bo Hoag, Dylan Meyer, Justin Rose (Eng), Robby Shelton, Tyler Strafaci

79 Jimmy Hervol, Webb Simpson

80 Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Steve Allan (Aus)

82 Alvaro Ortiz (Mex)

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