Johnson and Westwood one shot off surprise leader Landry after US Open first round
Dustin Johnson, seeking to expunge the memory of last year’s US Open near miss, fired a flawless three-under par 67 on Friday to put the pressure on first-round leader Andrew Landry.
World No 6 Johnson, who three-putted the 72nd hole to finish tied for second behind Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay last year, was impressive in posting three birdies without a bogey on an Oakmont course that remained formidable despite being softened by thunderstorms that caused scheduling havoc on Thursday.
He joined former world No 1 Lee Westwood at three-under, tied for second a stroke behind Landry, whose four-under 66 was the lowest US Open first round score posted at Oakmont, which is hosting the tournament for the ninth time.
With organisers scrambling to get the tournament back on schedule, Johnson was among roughly half the field heading straight into the second round on Friday afternoon after playing all 18 holes of the first.
“It’s going to be a long day,” Johnson said. “You still do everything exactly how you would if you were just playing 18.”
Landry and Westwood had both returned Friday morning to complete their storm-disrupted first rounds.
They were to start the second round on Saturday morning and follow up straight away with the third.
Landry rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt at his final hole, the par-four ninth, in his only shot of the day. The 28-year-old Texan, ranked 624th in the world, said he didn’t lose any sleep anticipating the putt.
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“It was a pretty easy putt to make,” said Landry, who was briefly three strokes clear of the field.
Westwood closed the gap with a birdie-birdie finish. Like Landry he capped his round with a birdie at the ninth, the 477-yard hole that was playing as the toughest on the course in the first round.
Westwood, like Johnson still seeking a first major title, had three birdies in the final six holes of a round that he jump-started with an eagle two at the par-four 14th on Thursday.
“I hit it close, gave myself lots of chances,” said Westwood, who needed just 26 putts on Oakmont’s treacherous greens.
“When it’s wet like this it’s more scoreable. It tests every aspect of your game to the limit.”
Spain’s Sergio Garcia shook off a slow start to head a group sharing fourth on two-under 68 alongside Ireland’s Shane Lowry and American Scott Piercy.
Garcia was two-over through three holes, but picked up five birdies the rest of the way.
“I felt like I hit a lot of good shots, made a couple of good putts and a couple of good up-and-downs when I needed it and I’m very happy with the final result,” Garcia said. “We’ve had a lot of rain, but the course is still challenging. It’s not as brutal as it was, so it gives you a bit more playability.”
Not everyone could take advantage.
World No 3 Rory McIlroy, the 2011 US Open champion, bogeyed the last three holes for a seven-over 77 that left him 11 shots off the pace and facing a battle to make the cut.
“It’s been tough,” McIlroy said. “It’s a long first round, it’s taken us over 24 hours to complete it.”
He said the stop-start play on Thursday “definitely complicated” the first round.
“But when you shoot 77 everything is a bit complicated.”
World No 1 Jason Day didn’t start the first round until Friday, but he struggled all the same.
The Australian’s six-over 76 included a double-bogey at the par-four seventh, where he was in two bunkers and needed two attempts to get out of one of them.
Phil Mickelson, a six-time US Open runner-up seeking the elusive title that would complete his career Grand Slam, carded a four-over par 74, one stroke better than Masters champion Danny Willett.
World No 2 Jordan Spieth, aiming to become the first to successfully defend the US Open title since Curtis Strange in 1989, carded a 72.
“A couple tough breaks,” Spieth said. “(I’m) still in it.”
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Updated: June 18, 2016 04:00 AM