Rickie Fowler takes major step at U.S. Open with opening-round 65

Rickie Fowler U.S. Open 2017 Getty Images

Rickie Fowler takes major step at U.S. Open with opening-round 65

PGA Tour

Rickie Fowler takes major step at U.S. Open with opening-round 65

ERIN, Wis. – Rickie Fowler would’ve taken 7 under for three rounds here at the U.S. Open. He reached it in just one.

After an opening 7-under 65, Fowler jumped out to a two-shot lead Thursday at Erin Hills. It was a masterful start by a player who has yet to fully prove himself at these major championships.

“I don’t need a whole lot more after putting 7 (under) up today,” Fowler said.

But the way Fowler is playing, executing his gameplan almost flawlessly during his first 18 holes, more is certainly to be expected. He drove it well (12 of 14 fairways), hit greens (15 of 18) and had his putter going, draining four birdies from outside of 10 feet and striking just 27 putts in total. Most importantly, Fowler didn’t card a bogey.

“You don’t get many rounds at the U.S. Open that are stress-free,” Fowler said.

Fowler pieced his way around a lengthy Erin Hills on Thursday. He hit driver when he needed to and also laid off the gas when necessary. He hit 2-iron off the tee at the par-4 fourth hole and followed it with a cut 5-iron to the middle of the green and two putts for his par. (Fowler called the hole his best of the day; he had seven birdie holes, too.)

So when Fowler calls his round one of no stress, his discipline in dissecting this major layout is a big reason for that.

At 28, Fowler has been in this position before in majors. He has six top 10s in majors, including four in 2014. However, he has none since then – most recently he closed with 76, going from penultimate final-round group to T-11 at the Masters – and still remains in the conversation of best players to have ever won a major.

He takes it as a compliment that he’s part of that discussion, but he’s tired of being in that category.

“The first thing is getting off to a good start Thursday, keeping that rolling and getting ourselves in contention Sunday,” Fowler said. “There’s a lot of golf to be played. But, yeah, I’m ready to be out there.”

Fowler is enjoying one of his best seasons. He ranks sixth in both strokes gained-tee to green and strokes gained-putting. He has a victory, at the Honda Classic, and four other top-6 finishes, including a T-2 at The Memorial two weeks ago.

His stellar play has bolstered his confidence, and it showed Thursday at Erin Hills.

Fowler called it a “simple day,” but it was more than that. His 7-under score in relation to par has been equaled or bettered just four times before him.

“It is always cool to be part of some sort of history in golf,” Fowler said. “But I’d rather be remembered for something that’s done on Sunday.”

• • •

7 under club

List of players who have shot 7 under or better in a U.S. Open

  • 63 (8 under), Johnny Miller, final round, Oakmont (Pa.) C.C., 1973
  • 63 (7 under), Jack Nicklaus, first round, Baltusrol G.C. (Lower Course), Springfield, N.J., 1980
  • 63 (7 under), Tom Weiskopf, first round, Baltusrol G.C. (Lower Course), Springfield, N.J., 1980
  • 63 (7 under), Vijay Singh, second round, Olympia Fields (Ill.) C.C. (North Course), 2003
  • 65 (7 under), Rickie Fowler, first round, Erin Hills GC, Erin, Wis., 2017

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