ERIN, Wis.—Exceeding the hype surrounding his game coming into the U.S. Open, Rickie Fowler, a popular choice to win this week, fired a dynamic seven-under par 65 to take the lead on day one.
The U.S. sports media would love Fowler to become the face of American golf as he is by far the most popular player in the country. He was a ball-striking machine getting to seven under par after 16 holes and cruising into the clubhouse with a two-shot lead. He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation and never seemed stressed throughout the round. Julie Inkster, Fox Sports’ on-course commentator, called it the best ball striking round she’d ever seen. Fox has to be ecstat-ic as they can now center their coverage around Fowler, already a golf icon whose resume glaringly lacks a major championship.
He didn’t seem the least bit concerned about the bearing the burden of being the best player to have never won a major championship (BPTHNWAM). When asked about the label in his post-round press conference Fowler said, “I take it as a compliment. There are a lot of really good players out here that haven’t won a major. So, it would be nice to get rid of that at some point. I’m not saying that this is the week or isn’t the week. But I like the way this golf course suits me, and we’re off to a good start.”
Rickie has performed incredibly well under pressure in the past, winning a thrilling Players Championship and playing well in Ryder Cups. He’s just never done it in a major. This looks like his best chance.
Fowler is trailed by Englishman Paul Casey, another player who is in the conversation or BPTHNWAM, and Xander Schauffele, who has one professional win to date. European rising star, Tommy Fleetwood, American Ryder Cupper Brooks Koepka, and former University of Georgia standout Brian Harman are all tied in 3rd place at five under par.
The are 43 players under par today, a record beating the U.S. Open at Medinah in 1990 where 39 players were under par after the first round. Strangely, the top five players in the world struggled mightily combining to go 18 over par. Luckily or the USGA and Fox Sports, Fowler has the star power to carry the weight if the top five continue to struggle and miss the cut for the weekend.
Notes from the course:
Pro tip for spectators at really any golf tournament but especially Erin Hills: If you are on crutches or a walking boot, maybe you sit this one out. This is a long, hilly, occasionally treacherous walk. I saw at least four people hobbling around the course. And it’s not like they were just on the first or last hole. They were deep into the course limping around. Some had looks on their faces like they didn’t know if they could get back…they had passed the point of no return. I offered provisions for their return journey and they seemed grateful.
Diminutive Brian Harman (listed at 5’7” but that’s extremely generous) was a stud golfer at Georgia. His height, or lack thereof makes you appreciate even more what he can do on a golf course. How he can compete with big guys like Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, or Bubba Wat-son speaks to the greatness of the game of golf. There are many different ways to hit a golf ball a long way. It is shocking to see some of the long hitters on the PGA tour in person. People such as Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and even Jason Day—they look like fragile little waifs, male ballerinas. Then they go out there and drive the ball 330 yards.
Fowler’s decision to go with a Green Bay Packer green and yellow golf bag was a big hit with the raucous fans up here in Wisconsin. Cheers of “Go Rick Go” were followed by the old standby of “Go Pack Go”.
Wisconsinites love cheese and they love to tell you about how much they love cheese. They are extremely intolerant of the lactose intolerant. And they don’t like when you put ketchup on your brats.