Young trio showcases mature game at Pinehurst

Jordan Spieth fired a 1-under 69 on Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2.
Jordan Spieth fired a 1-under 69 on Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2. ( Getty Images )

Thursday, June 12, 2014

PINEHURST, N.C. – Combined they are all of 67 years old.

Combined they have three career PGA Tour victories – or the amount Tiger Woods had through the first three months of 2013.

But, on Thursday, the trio of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama combined to post a much more impressive number: 2 under.

And on a course like Pinehurst No. 2, that is mighty impressive.

". . . the golf ball doesn't know how hold you are," Fowler quipped after his even-par 70 on Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Fowler was the elder statesman of the group – at the age of 25.

"I think the three of us were feeding off each other. I'm definitely the oldest guy in the group. So I've got more experience, so technically I should do better. But they both got me today," said Fowler, making his sixth U.S. Open appearance, with a T-10 at Merion in 2013 his best finish.

Matsuyama, 22, and Spieth, 20, continued to show game well beyond their respective ages, posting 1-under 69s to sit a shot back of the lead halfway through the first round.

"All in all, par at a U.S. Open, I'll take (that) for all four rounds," said Spieth, who capped his round with a three-putt on the difficult ninth green, missing a 6-footer that would have kept him tied for the lead after the morning wave.

"It felt like we had a pretty good draw today (playing in the morning). You never know what's going to happen tomorrow. But I wouldn't trade the position I'm in."

All three were impressive heading into or around the greens, with Fowler hitting 15 greens in regulation, while Spieth had 13 and Matsuyama 11. Both Matsuyama and Fowler also hit 12 fairways, while Spieth had 11.

"It was probably the worst I could have shot," Fowler said of his 70.

Matsuyama won his first Tour title at the Memorial two weeks ago in a playoff with Kevin Na, who moved to a share of the U.S. Open lead Thursday. Matsuyama looked to be stumbling halfway through his round, picking up bogeys at Nos. 1 and 2 to move to 2 over. But after seeing Fowler and Spieth jump into a share of the lead with birdies at the par-5 fifth, Matsuyama would run off birdies on three of his final five holes to get into the red.

There were only eight players to finish under par in the morning.

Matsuyama pointed to his beautiful approach on No. 8 that led to a 10-foot birdie as key, calling it "the best shot of the day."

It put him in a good frame of mind, as his tee ball at the par-3 ninth found a greenside bunker, normally a recipe for a sure bogey. But a brilliant sand shot that settled 4 feet past the hole allowed him to keep his momentum heading into the second round.

"I had a great time, myself, today, with the two of them," said Matsuyama, who finished T-10 at Merion in his only previous U.S. Open appearance.

Spieth seems to be having a grand time on the game's biggest stages, as he held the lead Sunday at the Masters in April before finishing T-2. He also played in the final group at the Players, where he also finished T-2. Fowler is impressed by what he is seeing out of the Texas product.

"Jordan has kind of come out and skipped all the hazing and he's kind of gone right into it, he's not having any trouble," said Fowler.

"We're trying to take some of the majors away from some of the older guys."

Not a bad start, young whippersnappers. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.