World No.1 Dustin Johnson claimed a share of the first round lead at the US Open with a one-under 69 at Shinnecock Hills on Thursday.
DJ, who reclaimed the World's top spot from Justin Thomas with a win at last week's FedEx St Jude Classic, posted four birdies and three bogeys on a tough day in Long Island to join Russell Henley, Scott Piercy and Ian Poulter at the top of the leaderboard after day 1.
Just four players (DJ, Henley, Piercy and Poulter) carded scores under par, while Jason Dufner was the only man to finish the day with a level par 70 - a stark contrast to the 44 players who finished under-par after the first round of the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills.
And while there weren't many players who complained about the set up, strong winds, deep rough and run off areas around the greens definitely got the better of the field as it became the highest opening round scoring average in a US Open since 1986. The average score was 76.48 on the par-70 course, showing its teeth as the World's top 10 could manage no better than a collective 52-over-par.
Among those high scorers were Rory McIlroy (+10) and Jordan Spieth (+8), who both scored their highest ever rounds in a major championship. Tiger Woods also struggled to an eight-over 78 as both he and Spieth had a bogey and a triple bogey on their first two holes.
Dustin Johnson however, predominantly stayed out of big trouble despite hitting just 50% of greens in regulation. He did however have just 26 putts, which included back-to-back birdies on the 4th and 5th holes before he gained the lead at 3-under with a chip in bunker shot on the eighth and birdie on the 11th. His bogeys came at the 6th, 12th and 14th holes, before he parred his way in to remain at -1 and in a share of the lead.
The stats aren't particularly leaning in Dustin Johnson's favour, given that no player has ever won U.S. Open after winning the previous week. And yet, he's so far put himself in to a strong position of at least having a chance to become the first.
"I'm very pleased with the round," said Johnson. "Anything under par on this golf course is very good, especially in the conditions we had today. From start to finish, it was very difficult.
"You had to focus on every single shot you hit, putts, everything. You know, it was just difficult all day, and you really had to be patient and focused, which I felt like I did a really good job of. But I felt like the USGA did a great job with the set-up. I felt like it was hard, but it was fair. It wasn't anything tricky or unreasonable by any means."
Before Johnson went out and as the early morning feature group of Spieth (+8), McIlroy (+10) and Mickelson (+7) had a round to forget, it was both Scott Piercy and Ian Poulter who led the way with the only under-par rounds in the first wave of groups to play around Shinnecock.
Piercy had qualified as an alternate and had walked off the course after four holes of his practice round on Wednesday through frustration before going home to watch some of his old swings. He admitted his expectations weren't very high, but after a par-bogey start he righted the ship with a birdie on the par-five 5th and followed it with a birdie-par-birdie run from the 10th to score the first 69 of the day.
"You know, going into today, I actually really struggled with my preparation this week. Yesterday, I walked off the golf course after four holes because I was so frustrated with my preparation. So it's hard to say, like, you know, I didn't really expect this this morning. Just kind of regrouped last night, tried to go back to a couple things that have worked throughout the year. I was able to kind of piece it together again.
"I think that's the biggest thing it did for me is just, you know what -- I even told my wife, I'm like, there's a good chance I'll be home on Saturday. Unless I show up a different person in the morning, I'll see you Saturday.
"Like I said, it reset my expectations, and I tried to come out here with a good mindset, a good attitude to -- I knew it was going to be tough, especially when I got here and it's blowing 20 in the morning. So everybody's going to have a tough time.
Ian Poulter, who hasn't typically performed well in the US Open - and hasn't even teed up for the past two years - soon joined him in the clubhouse.
A bogey-free front nine gave Poulter the co-lead at 2-under thanks to birdies at both the third and the difficult par-three 7th 'Redan' hole, which caused plenty of problems when the US Open was last staged here in 2004.
His first dropped shot of the day came on the 10th hole, and despite immediately responding with a birdie on the 11th, Poulter gave another shot back on the 14th hole as he went on to finish with a one-under 69 to join Piercy at the top of the leaderboard. And for Ian, it was a change it attitude that helped him put bad memories of US Open's gone by behind him.
"It was extremely windy, and it was extremely difficult," Poulter said. "So to come off the golf course under par is extremely satisfying. U.S. Open Golf hasn't been good for me through the years. It's the first one I've played in three years, and this is the first one I ever played back in '04. So to come here and enjoy the first round is really quite nice.
"I played exceptionally well. I played the par 3s well. I played 7 well, made 2, and obviously made 2 on 11. So to get through those two very tricky par 3s in four shots is well ahead of the game when you look at the average at the end of the day.
"Every one of the U.S. Opens I've played in the past, you know, I've kind of -- I've been disappointed. I've been angry. I've been frustrated. They're tough. They're always set up difficult. They're supposed to be difficult. But shooting over par is hard to take sometimes. So this week for me, from a mindset perspective, I know I'm playing good golf. I got off to a decent start this year, and it's really about trying to just enjoy my golf.
"I certainly did that today. I enjoyed everything about the round. I mean, there was a couple of stressful shots there in the fescue, which I made a couple of good up and downs, and I only dropped a couple of shots. For me, it was an enjoyable round of golf, and I'll enjoy this afternoon. And then we got three more stressful days to come."
Russell Henley had a more turbulent route to his 69, cancelling an early bogey with an eagle on 5th and birdies on the 7th and 8th holes to get to 3-under at the turn. He then doubled the 11th, birdied the 13th and missed a par-putt on the 18th. And if it hadn't been for another missed putt on the 15th, he could have held the outright lead.
Jason Dufner did hold a share of the lead early on as he got to 2-under after six, but ultimately dropped back in to solo 5th by the end of the first day.
Elsewhere, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson sit in a group two shots back of the leaders on +1, with both Masters Champion Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler a further two shots back on +3.
For the full leaderboard, click here.