Scott Piercy, who just squeezed into the U.S. Open field, carded a four-under 67 to grab the first-round clubhouse lead on Thursday with Pebble Beach headliners Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka waiting in the wings. With no wind and soft greens, the early starters were treated to ideal scoring conditions and took full advantage by lighting up the leaderboard with birdies and low scores.
On a cool overcast day on the Monterey peninsula, Piercy got his round off to blazing start by getting to five-under through six holes, highlighted by an eagle at the par-five sixth. But Piercy, who was only confirmed to the field on Monday after getting to 59th in the rankings, gave a chunk of it back with a double bogey at the eight before adding two more birdies and a bogey at the last.
That bogey at 18 dropped the 40-year-old American level with Rickie Fowler who was also at four under with four to play. Lurking one shot back was a pack on three-under that included Rory McIlroy, Bryson Dechambeau and Gary Woodland as well as Austrian Sepp Straka and Argentine Emiliano Grillo, who were both in the clubhouse with 68s.
McIlroy, who missed the cut at the last three U.S. Opens, rode a wave of momentum into Pebble Beach Golf Links coming off a rampaging win at the Canadian Open, but playing the back nine first he stumbled out of the gate with a bogey at the 10th. That would be only miscue by the Northern Irishman in 16 holes as he bids to become the first player in 119 years to win the U.S. Open after victory the week before the major.
Aided by a sizzling putter, which he very nearly left in Canada, McIlroy jumped up the leaderboard with back-to-back birdies, rolling in a 12-footer at the second and a 22-footer at the third. During the winner's ceremony on Sunday at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, McIlroy traded his putter for a Toronto Raptors jersey and forgot to take it back before later sending caddie Harry Diamond to retrieve the flat stick.
As the morning wave were wrapping up their rounds, the buzz was building around the Pebble Beach Golf Links with Woods and Koepka, the two-times defending U.S. Open champion, preparing to tee off. Koepka may have won four majors in the last two years but Woods remains golf's top attraction and as usual will be surrounded by massive galleries as he looks to add to his haul of 15 majors, which includes a record 15-shot runaway win at Pebble Beach in 2000.
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