Phil Mickelson near bottom of leaderboard at U.S. Open after 79

Tiger Woods watches a golf ball roll past the golf hole during the US Open

Thomas has only one top-20 finish in his previous five US Open appearances and missed the cut in last year's contest at Pebble Beach, with the 2017 PGA champion encouraged by his start to the second major of the year. "Hit the ball very well, kept it in play", McIlroy said.

Paired with Rickie Fowler and Viktor Hovland in the opening round, Wolff shot a 4-under 66 at Winged Foot to finish in a three-way tie for second, a shot behind Justin Thomas. He handed that shot back on the par-3 third but birdied the sixth before picking up three shots on the bounce at the ninth, tenth and eleventh.

"It's one of the best rounds I've played in a while tee to green", said Thomas, who needed only 28 putts on Winged Foot's wildly undulating and speedy greens.

"That just breeds confidence and he's the kind of player that, particularly this week, this golf course is set up really hard".

"Yeah, 65 is fun no matter where you play, especially at Winged Foot", Thomas said. I just was sticking to my routine and playing every shot, as opposed to getting ahead of myself.

Best buddies Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman are doubtless thrilled to be in the same three-ball, but Leishman's miserable recent form suggests he will fail to turn the relaxed vibe into birdies.

World number one Dustin Johnson, six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson and defending champion Gary Woodland are among those to head out in the later session.

That's why, as Thursday morning grew longer, cameras began appearing with the U.S. Open grouping of Davis Thompson, Brendon Todd and Harris English. Thirty-two years before that, in a tournament later described as "The Massacre at Winged Foot", Hale Irwin outlasted the field at seven over. I just think that the golf course is there to be had.

Jason Day closes his eyes and slings his golf club over his shoulder
Jason Day started with a 2-over and followed it up with 4-over to just barely make the cut

The answer on the evidence of the opening round?

The 30-year-old American opened with four pars at the famed course in suburban Mamaroneck, then stumbled with a double bogey at the par-4 fifth. As it stands, with three rounds to go, there have already been 21 sub-par rounds.

"He's a player that - yes he has length - but he also has learned to understand how to use that". So it was good scoring conditions.

This isn't the first time Winged Foot will host America's championship.

After making an incredible par from the trees at the 17th, Mickelson stepped onto the 18th tee with a one-shot lead and much to everyone's surprise he pulled out his driver, which had caused a few problems earlier in the day. "It has enough loft to get it out from most lies, but I don't know if there is any secret weapon that's going to give you an advantage from this rough". Mickelson, unimpressive amid the smoky atmosphere of the Safeway Open in California last week, seems highly unlikely to get the US Open title he so craves.

Robert MacIntyre, Connor Syme and amateur Sandy Scott - with a combined age of 71 - are flying the flag for the home of golf at Winged Foot.

Oban-based MacIntyre is four-over, with Scott and Syme each a further shot adrift.


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