The first 18 holes of the 2022 US Open at The Country Club are completed and what better time than now to completely overreact to what we saw.
Though it felt like about two days, we’re through the first round of the 2022 US Open and, after some difficult golf being played, it’s Canadian Adam Hadwin sitting atop the leaderboard after firing off an impressive round of 66 in the afternoon wave, a wave that played about a half-stroke more difficult than the morning groups.
Now, there are obviously still 54 holes to play in this tournament on a course at The Country Club that is already exceptionally difficult and could only get tougher as the week progresses. That is to say that there is a lot of golf to play and so much that can still happen.
But what’s the fun in being rational about this? Let’s take a look at 18 holes of golf and just overreact to what we saw and what happened in the first round of the US Open.
US Open: Overreactions from the first round
5. Forget being eligible — the LIV Golf crew might not qualify for the majors
Outside of Dustin Johnson, there’s not a player who’s committed to LIV Golf (that we know of, at least) who is under par. The next closest is Patrick Reed at even-par, but the rest of the group was laughably bad on Thursday, most notably with Phil Mickelson shooting 8-over and Louis Oosthuizen not much better at 7-over. Heck, Kevin Na was tied for the lead early on and then went on to shoot 5-over.
One of the biggest criticisms about LIV Golf has been the lack of quality in the field. This only further confirms that. Moreover, with talk about their future status for major championships depending on what the separate organizations decide, you have to wonder how many of these guys would even qualify given the form that they’re in.
4. Matt Fitzpatrick can only win at The Country Club on U.S. soil
Among the big narratives actually concerning the golf being played this week was the fact that Matt Fitzpatrick, who statistically has been great all season long, won the US Amateur at The Country Club back in 2013. Thus, he’s familiar with success at the place and seemed like a good option. Lo and behold, that looks like the case.
Until a bit of an unforced error on his 18th hole, Fitzpatrick was right in the mix to take the lead in the first round. Now, we’ve seen this before, but the Englishman has still yet to win on American soil. Even still, the fact tha the narrative was about his success at Brookline coming in and he’s backing it up is something that I can’t ignore, even if it’s only been 18 holes.
3. At least nine of the 13 golfers at -2 or better are shooting over par on Friday
One of the things that stands out about the leaderboard after Round 1 is the number of guys who no one expected to be in this position coming into the US Open. After 18 holes, there are 13 players who are at 2-under or better. Guys like Callum Tarren, David Lingmerth and MJ Daffue are one off the lead with others like Hayden Buckley and Matthew NeSmith two back.
And even among some of the household names in that group, there are guys who just simply haven’t been in this spot for a major championship, Hadwin included at the top. With conditions surely getting tougher on Friday, I expect this leaderboard to get shaken up in a major way and for the true test of the US Open to wear on them and take them back to Earth.
2. Jon Rahm and Max Homa are definitely finishing inside the Top 5
Out of all of the guys who aren’t at the top of the leaderboard but aren’t remotely out of contention, it’s hard for me to look away from Jon Rahm and Max Homa. In the case of Rahm, he looked completely unhappy with his game for the entire day, didn’t play particularly well statistically or by the eye test, and is still only three strokes behind Hadwin and the lead right now. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the field.
As for Homa, I’ve been preaching that he’s being overlooked far too often and this is another example. He too is only three strokes off the lead but also led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach on Thursday but lost 1.64 strokes with his short game. If that balances out to even field average, he’s going to be a factor on the weekend.
Of course, none of that is going to matter for the winners because…
1. Rory McIlroy is about to win by 10 strokes
I’m not backing down. When you look at the statistical profile for Rory’s round, it’s one that would scare me with most golfers because he gained more than 4.0 strokes with the putter, something that can come back to earth. However, with McIlroy, we saw him gain those strokes early in the round and then start to settle down with the rest of his game, save for the bogey on the 18th hole.
Rory got his wedges dialed in, something that has been a decided weakness for him over the past year or so, and clearly has the fire that many have surmised has been missing from him mentally so long. Coming into the week, he had my full-throated backing for this week. After what I saw on Thursday, I don’t care what happened at the PGA Championship after Round 1 or about the majors since 2014 — he’s not just winning the US Open, he’s going to leave everyone else outside even the rearview mirror.