SOUTHAMPTON, New York — The U.S. Open lived up to its reputation in the return to Shinnecock Hills.
So did Dustin Johnson.
Fresh off a six-shot victory last week, Johnson managed all aspects of his game Thursday on a classic U.S. Open course that required nothing less. He wasn’t perfect, but he was under par — barely — and shared the lead at 1-under 69 in an opening round of strong wind, high anxiety and scores that made this feel like a U.S. Open again.
“You had to focus on every single shot you hit — putts, everything. It was just difficult all day,” Johnson said. “Every day out here is going to be difficult.”
It was plenty tough for Tiger Woods, who started with a triple bogey and added a pair of double bogeys on the back nine for a 78.
Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth — the only three active players with three legs of the career Grand Slam — made only six birdies among them. They were a combined 25-over par, with Mickelson the low man in the group at 77.
Johnson, Ian Poulter, Scott Piercy and Russell Henley were the only players under par. That’s a sharp contrast from last year at Erin Hills, where 44 players broke par in the opening round to set a U.S. Open record.
Jason Dufner nearly joined them. He settled for a 70 with no complaints.
“I think it’s in fifth place,” he said. “So beat about 151 guys.”
Most everyone else felt beat up on a course where wind that gusted to 25 mph made the fairways shrink and the rough look even taller. McIlroy needed a dozen people to help him find a tee shot in the rough. He found the next shot on his own because he advanced it only 6 feet. Mickelson asked an official if there was a rule that allowed a player to see the ball as he was trying to hit it.
“People talk about the fairways are ‘more generous’ for an Open,” Charles Howell III said after a 71. “When the wind starts blowing this way, they’re not generous.”
Woods ran into problems on the short grass — it took him three shots to reach the putting surface behind the first green on his way to a triple bogey, and he four-putted on No. 13 for the first of successive double bogeys.
“It was pretty evident nobody was making any birdies in the morning — lots and lots of bogeys and ‘others,’” Woods said. “My game plan was not to make any ‘others,’ and I made three of them. So didn’t do very well there.”
Piercy, the last man in the 156-man field as an alternate from qualifying, was so disgusted with his game in his final practice round that he walked off the course. He dropped only two shots, both on par 3s, and was the first to post a 69. Poulter also played in the morning, while Johnson and Henley played in the afternoon as the wind reached its full strength.
Henley was the only player to reach 3 under at any point, and he promptly gave that back with a double bogey on No. 10.