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Fowler, Schauffele break US Open record

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele became part of United States (US) Open history on Thursday in a most unfathomable manner. No one had ever shot 62 in the previous 122 editions of golf’s toughest test until they did it some 15 minutes apart.

Even more stunning were so many other records on an extraordinary day for scoring at the major that puts par on a pedestal.

Fowler made 10 birdies – believed to be a record for most holes under par for any round in the US Open – and can always say he was the first with a 62. Two groups behind him, Schauffele capped off his eight-under 62 without a bogey on his card or a care in the world.

“I’m going to take what the course can give me,” he said. “And today it gave me a low one.”

The North course at Los Angeles Country Club was so defenceless that no one shot 80 or higher over 18 holes. The US Open had never had more than two players at 65 or better in the opening round. There were six such rounds at LACC.

Most telling was the average score of 71.37 was the lowest for an opening round in US Open history.

Most embarrassing for the United States Golf Association (USGA) was the US Open joining the Bermuda Championship as the only tournaments this year to feature two rounds at 62 on the same day. “I’d imagine the USGA is not loving the scores too much,” Mackenzie Hughes said. “I’m guessing the sprinklers are going to be turned off tonight.”

FROM LEFT: Rickie Fowler; and Xander Schauffele during the first round of the 123rd US Open Championship. PHOTOS: AP & AFP

No need for Fowler and Schauffele to apologise. No need for an asterisk. PGA champion Brooks Koepka couldn’t break par – he shot 71, never a bad start at the US Open but leaving him nine shots behind in this one.

The toughest test in golf. Tough meant keeping track of the 485 birdies and eight eagles.

“It’s not really what you expect playing a US Open,” Schauffele said. “But monkey see, monkey do. Was just chasing Rickie up the leaderboard. Glad he was just in front me.”

Those who came behind them looked to do the same. Dustin Johnson hit all 13 fairways and had a chance at 62 until his five-iron on the par-three ninth went into a bunker next to the 18th green. That led to his only bogey and a somewhat disappointing 64 – rare to say in a US Open – to join Wyndham Clark.

Rory McIlroy went out in 30 – his best nine-hole start in any major – and had to settle for a 65. He whiffed on a delicate flop shot from the thick collar of grass around the 18th and escaped with a bogey. Also at 65 was Brian Harman, who played his first 10 holes in six under but went one over from there.

Johnson found his way into the record book. He tied Tiger Woods for most rounds of 65 or lower in the majors (10). “This isn’t your typical US Open mindset of like, ‘I’m just playing for par.’ You’ve got to make some birdies to keep in line with those guys,” Harris English said after a ho-hum 67.

It all started with Fowler, whose remarkable round included two bogeys when he missed the green on the 254-yard 11th and missed the fairway on the 17th on his front nine. Starting with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th, he ran off four straight birdies.

He set the record with a two-putt from just under 60 feet on the par-five ninth. That’s also when he noticed the leaderboard.

“I knew where I was at,” Fowler said. “I would say from the middle of the round up until the ninth green, our last hole, I didn’t really know or see any scores. And then I saw that Xander was at seven (under) at that point, and I’m not sure if he even knew where I was or anything.

“But it was kind of cool if he did to see he kind of latched on and we were taking off a bit.”

Schauffele was two groups behind and never too far away. He lost one birdie chance on the short par-four sixth by trying to drive the green, but then picked up a rare birdie on the 258-yard seventh hole with what he called a “tomahawk four-iron” to five feet and got up-and-down from short of the green on the par-five eighth.

They now share the major championship record with Branden Grace, who had a 62 in the third round at Royal Birkdale in the 2017 British Open.

Their record day came on the 50-year anniversary of Johnny Miller posting the first 63 in US Open history. Since then, five players have shot 63 in a US Open, most recently Tommy Fleetwood in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf each shot 63 in the opening round at Baltusrol in the 1980 US Open, which Nicklaus went on to win.

The conditions were prime for scoring – overcast, mild with barely any wind. Condensation in the morning felt like a like mist, and it kept the greens receptive.

The next best score from the morning wave was a three-under 67 by a group that included Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau. Five more players shot 67 before the day was over.

The low scoring was sure to raise questions about LACC, a century-old club hosting a major championship for the first time.

“It’s just Thursday,” Schauffele said. “It’s literally just the first day of a tournament. It’s a good start,” Schauffele said.

“You just wait until this place firms up. It’s going to be nasty.”