Even a rain-soaked Oakmont didn’t keep the U.S. Open from delivering its usual dose of frustration.
Just not the kind anyone expected.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, who had spent five days preparing on the firm and fiery greens of Oakmont, posed over a wedge into the 17th that landed behind the hole, spun back and kept rolling until it trickled down a slope into the bunker.
“You’ve got to be KIDDING me! How is that in the bunker?” Spieth said before slinging his club toward the bag.
Masters champion Danny Willett sat in a cabin behind the seventh tee for more than an hour as his group waited out the first of three rain delays. When the weather cleared, players were sent back onto the course without having a chance to warm up again.
“You’re in a U.S. Open, they don’t give you a chance to even hit a few balls,” Willett said, and he wasn’t alone in that observation.
Most frustrating of all?
Only nine players finished the first round, and 78 players didn’t even tee off. Play was to resume at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
It was the worst rain delay in a U.S. Open since no one finished the opening round at Bethpage Black in 2009 in a tournament that ended on a Monday.
The first round was suspended for third and final time just as 28-year-old qualifier Andrew Landry was finishing up a dream round in his U.S. Open debut. Coming off two straight bogeys, Landry drilled his approach to about 10 feet on the par-4 ninth when the horn sounded as a violent storm approached. He was at 3-under par.
“I was trying to get it in,” Landry said. “But it’s hard when you’ve got a couple of 60-footers out here. And it’s the U.S. Open. So you’ve just got to be patient with it.”
He wasn’t the only player to make a quick impression in his first U.S. Open. On the short list of players who finished was Scottie Scheffler, who just finished his sophomore year at Texas and opened with a 69.
“I feel pretty good. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said. “There’s definitely some scores out there to be shot. We’re used to playing short to all these pins, and now we’ve got to worry about controlling our spin. And you’ve really, really got to be on the fairway to attack these pins again.”
Willett, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler could not get off the course soon enough. They played in the same group and were a combined 14 over through 13 holes. Fowler has missed the cut in three of his last five events.
It was evident immediately how much the rain affected the course. Denny McCarthy, the first to hit a shot in the 116th U.S. Open, struck what he thought was a good approach to No. 1. The fairway slopes sharply downhill to a green that runs away from players, and the typical play is to land it some 25 yards short and let it run onto the green and, hopefully, have it stay there. His shot stopped short of the green.
But while the greens were soft, they still were quick as ever.
Starting on No. 10, Bryon DeChambeau had a 40-foot birdie attempt that didn’t stop until it was some 35 feet beyond the hole.
Two holes later, Spieth hit a wedge that checked up about 10 feet short of the hole and then trickled a few inches toward the cup. And it didn’t stop. Turn by turn, the ball kept moving until it settled 2 feet away. Even then, Spieth gave the putt great care and rolled in it.
“It’s nice to know if I miss it, I’m chipping,” Spieth said walking off the green.
There was still enough excitement, with Lee Westwood holing out with a wedge on the 14th hole, Danny Lee holing out from the fairway on No. 6 and McCarthy getting it on the act with a hole-out from the 11th fairway.
Lee was at 2 under through 13 holes, along with Bubba Watson, who made only two pars in his opening holes. Watson has never played the U.S. Open very well, except at Oakmont. He tied for fifth in 2007.
Westwood, Kevin Streelman and Harris English were at 1 under on various parts of the course.
DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Amateur last year and had to qualify for the Open because he turned pro, was among the early leaders until two holes set him back.
His shot out of deep rough in the 18th fairway squirted low and left and into a bunker, and his third shot banged off the grandstand, leading to double bogey. On his next shot at No. 1, he pushed right and into the bushes. Then, he hit a provisional shot into deep rough on the left. DeChambeau was spared by finding his ball. It was unplayable, so he was allowed to go back to the tee. He hit the fairway and limited the damage to a double bogey.
DeChambeau had to get out of the Church Pew bunkers for his final shot of the day, and he rode quietly in a cart across the bridge over the Pennsylvania Turnpike and back toward the clubhouse, the end of a long day.
The longest day of all belonged to the likes of Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and the other half of the field that didn’t even play. And they faced an even longer day Friday that for some could mean 36 holes at Oakmont.