World No 2 Rory McIlroy and third-ranked Jason Day are both in danger of missing the cut in the 117th US Open after suffering nightmare starts to the season’s second major at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
On a day when former Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler came out of the blocks in record-equalling style with a seven-under-par 65, McIlroy could only manage a 78 while Day had two triple-bogeys in his 79.
The disappointing efforts left the pair sitting outside the top 140 in a 156-strong field, needing low scores in today’s second round at the new venue for the event near Milwaukee to survive the cut.
For McIlroy, it was a case of his comments about the USGA’s decision to cut down heavy rough earlier in the week coming back to haunt him.
‘’Really?’’ he said, incredulously, in reaction to tall fescue grass being scythed down at four holes, though not according to the tournament organisers in response to comments from players.
“They’re the widest fairways we’ve ever played in a US Open. You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here. If we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.’’
The 2011 winner is now facing that prospect after an up-and-down opening round in the company of Day and Justin Rose.
McIlroy, who is playing in his first event in more than a month due to a niggling rib injury, eagled the second, where he drove the green on the 330-yard par-4, but was soon struggling.
The four-time major winner had already made four bogeys before running up two double-bogeys late on - at 15th and 17th.
“I don’t think I hit a fairway from the 10th and you cannot play this golf course if you are not in position off the tee. I obviously paid the price today,” he said afterwards.
“The fairways should be wide enough for me to hit, it was just one of those days. My timing was just a little bit off. I started missing some left and tried to correct it and missed a couple right.”
Day is sitting fifth last after he signed for two triple-bogeys on the same day for the first time in 676 rounds on the PGA Tour.
His first one came after he’d gone through the back of the green at the fourth while his troubles at the 10th stemmed from a wild drive.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson (75) also starts the second round outside the projected cut mark, as do Henrik Stenson (74), Graeme McDowell (76), Jon Rahm (76), Jimmy Walker (77) and Danny Willett (81).
Erin Hills had been set up to play to 7,845 yards in the first round, surpassing the record set at Chambers Bay in 2015 by 150 yards.
However, a combination of wide fairways and a course softened by previous thunderstorms helped Fowler card seven birdies in a flawless opening 65.
That equalled the lowest score in relation to par in the first round of a US Open, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf having both shot 63 in the first round on the par-70 layout at Baltusrol in 1980.
“It’s always cool to be part of some sort of history in golf, but I’d rather be remembered for something that’s done on Sunday,” said the American.
Martin Laird fared best among the three Scots in the field with a level-par 72, one better than playing partner Russell Knox.
Out in the afternoon, Richie Ramsay was two-under with six to play before following a bogey at the fourth by dropping two shots at the short ninth, his last.
That left him alongside Knox in joint-61st, with the top 60 and ties after 36 holes progressing to the final two rounds.
Grant Forrest and Ross Kellett both made encouraging starts in the Challenge Tour’s Hauts de France Golf Open at Aa Saint Omer.
Taking up where he’d left off when finishing with a 64 to claim a share of fourth spot in Belgium last weekend, Forrest opened with a four-under 67.
That earned the Craigielaw player a share of the lead with Irisman Dermot McElroy, England’s James Allan and Belgian Christopher Mivis.
Kellett is a shot behind after illuminating his round with a hole-in-one at the 164-yard fourth courtesy of a 7-iron.
Michael Stewart rounded off one of his best performances in the paid ranks by finishing joint-second on the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Eagle Orchid Scottish Masters in Montrose.
Ayrshire ace Stewart finished with a flourish at Montrose Links, holing his second for an eagle at the last as he closed with a seven-under-par 64.
That gave him a 13-under-par 200 total and a share of second spot behind Englishman Chris Lloyd, who claimed the £10,000 top prize by two shots.
Stewart picked up £4,500 for his encouraging effort, his best performance since losing in a play-off on the Alps Tour in 2013.
“I played great over the three days, some of the best golf I’ve ever played, which was nice,” said the 27-year-old Troon Welbeck man. “Today could have been really low as I didn’t hole many putts in all honesty.
“The last hole was obviously a big stroke of luck as I holed a shot from 90 yards from the right rough.”
Stewart won the Scottish Boys in 2008 before adding the Scottish Amateur two years later.
He turned pro after being part of a winning Walker Cup team at Royal Aberdeen in 2011 but this is the first time that he’s really managed to recapture some of his amateur form.
“It was great to be up there contending,” admitted Stewart, who earned £4,500 as he finished two shots behind Lloyd.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the buzz of being up there with a chance of winning. My game has felt great recently so I’m just happy to be putting scores together.”
Conor O’Neil, who’d shared the lead heading into the final round, slipped to joint-42nd after the Mearns Castle Golf Academy player had to settle for a closing 78.
Two Scots - Paul O’Hara and Christopher Currie - are chasing a £10,000 top prize heading into final round of the Titleist and Footjoy PGA Professional Championship at Luttrellstown Castle in Ireland.
The tartan duo are alongside Englishman Christopher McDonnell on one-under-par after a tough scoring day in the 72-hole event.
Caldwell-attached Currie fared best of the trio with a 74, one better than O’Hara and beating McDonnell by three on the day.
Motherwell man O’Hara is bidding to complete a quickfire double after his wire-to-wire win in the Northern Open at Lossiemouth last week.
Welshman Garry Houston is lurking dangerously, sitting a shot behind the joint-leaders, while others still in the hunt include English trio Phil Archer, Andrew Raitt and Craig Goodfellow.
England’s Holly Clyburn is one shot off Brooke Henderson’s lead after the first round of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give.
The former Curtis Cup player shot a seven-under-par 64 at Blythefield Country Club, an effort that was built around a run of five birdies in six holes to finish the front nine.
Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam was the last of five Scots to bow out of the Ladies British Amateur Championship at Pyle & Kenfig in Wales.
She went down by two holes to Spaniard Ainhoa Olarra in the second round after earlier exits for Chloe Goadby (St Regulus), Connie Jaffrey (Troon Ladies), Gemma Batty (Moffat) and Lauren Whyte (St Regulus).