/2021 U.S. Open leaderboard breakdown: Louis Oosthuizen co-leads, favorite Jon Rahm in contention after Day 1 – CBSSports.com

2021 U.S. Open leaderboard breakdown: Louis Oosthuizen co-leads, favorite Jon Rahm in contention after Day 1 – CBSSports.com

The first round of the 2021 U.S. Open is (mostly) in the books, and the top of the leaderboard is flush with star power as Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele and Jon Rahm are among the sport’s big draws who launched themselves into contention after the first 18 holes of action on Thursday at Torrey Pines. None of them are in the lead, however, thanks to surprise showings from a pair of tricenarians who stole the show in Round 1.

One of those was 32-year-old Russell Henley, who turned in a 4-under 67 to kickstart his U.S. Open week. Henley’s 67 marks his best score in a major championship since 2018 — the same year he last appeared in the U.S. Open — after playing an unflappable round in which he leaned heavily on his putter to carry him. The other is Louis Oosthuizen, who is also at 4-under but has two holes left to polish off his first round after play was suspended early due to darkness Thursday evening. Both are T1 on the leaderboard.

Reigning champion Bryson DeChambeau wasn’t able to capture the same success as his elder counterparts as he opened up his title defense. DeChambeau played his first nine at 1 over before he shot himself out of the immediate contention picture with three consecutive bogeys on the back. He finished with a 2-over 73 and sits T61 on the leaderboard. DeChambeau’s feud partner on the other hand, Brooks Koepka, turned in a 2-under 69 as he looks to capture his third U.S. Open in five years.

Here is a rundown of the rest of the leaderboard after the first day of action at Torrey Pines.

T1. Russell Henley (-4): Henley unloaded one of his best rounds of golf in three years Thursday with an opening 67, marking just his sixth career score of 67 or better in a major and first since the 2018 PGA Championship. He was tremendous with his irons and even better with his putter, which he used to gain nearly four strokes on the field. Only once prior to Thursday had Henley played the South Course at Torrey Pines in a competitive setting, and it came in 2014 when he shot a 79, so pacing the field at a major championship seven years later is a remarkable development.  

T1. Louis Oosthuizen (-4): Play was suspended Thursday evening with Oosthuizen still yet to finish holes No. 8 and 9. But barring a stunning collapse to finish his round Friday, he is destined to finish among the top 10 on the leaderboard through his opening round. That would make 12 top-10 placements on U.S. Open leaderboards after a round since 2011, according to Justin Ray, which is tied for the second-most among all golfers in that span.

T3. Francesco Molinari and Rafa Cabrera Bello (-3): Molinari had the second-fewest number of putts among all golfers Thursday and gained 3.71 strokes on the field with his putter to anchor his strong Round 1. Meanwhile, Cabrera Bello played one of the most impressive rounds of the day, as he went bogey-free with a birdie on No. 2, an eagle on No. 18 and 16 pars on the scorecard. 

T5. Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Hayden Buckley, Sebastian Munoz (-2): Notorious for his strong play at U.S. Opens, Koepka, a two-time national champion, turned in a tidy 2-under 69 to open his week. He opened with a bogey-free first nine (starting on the back) and lost some form down the stretch with a pair of bogeys on holes three and seven. But his length off the tee played well on the long track at Torrey Pines, and he gained nearly three strokes on the field with a strong showing with the putter. Koepka has gone on to win or finish second in six of the last 10 majors where he opened with a score in the 60s, so history suggests he’ll be one of the thoroughbreds contending into the weekend.

Rahm entered Thursday as the betting favorite and did nothing to play himself out of that position. He was brilliant in navigating his opening-round 69, withstanding early turbulence and leveling off late. After a bout with COVID-19 and narrowly being cleared in time to travel to Torrey Pines, there was inevitably some questions about how he might fare this week, but this is the same Rahm that was lapping the field at the Memorial before having to WD — and the same one equipped with the goods to win his first career major championship this week.

Seeking his first career major championship in his hometown of San Diego, Schauffele is a regular contender at the U.S. Open, with four consecutive top-10 finishes entering the week. He continued that strong trend Thursday with a blistering 33 on his first nine before playing his final nine at 1 over. He had just about everything working except the putter, which is typically a strength of his. That could foreshadow a big week ahead if he’s able to figure some things out with the short stick.

T11. Rory McIlroy, Matthew Wolff and 12 others (-1): Recent showings in major championships for McIlroy has left something to be desired for one of golf’s premier talents — he finished T49 at the PGA and missed the Masters cut — but he was pretty solid to open up the week. He didn’t hit all his fairways and not every putt dropped, but he used his length off the tee to his advantage and his short game was sublime. Part of the reason to fade McIlroy is because he plays his way out of tournaments early, but he’s played himself into the mix entering Friday and looks to be in good form at a major he last won a decade ago.

After a DQ at the Masters and a missed cut at the Zurich in April, Wolff took nearly two months away from the game. His return to golf on Thursday at Torrey Pines was reflective of that and also of his immense talents. He finished with eight birdies on the day yet finished 1-under on the round, becoming the first golfer in U.S. Open history to record eight or more birdies and multiple double bogeys or worse, according to Justin Ray.

T24. Dustin Johnson and 16 others (E): One bogey on the front, one birdie on the back and 16 pars sprinkled throughout is how D.J. handled his business in Round 1. He was well below field average in fairways hit and his putting was just-OK, but he was able to scramble throughout the round, hit his greens and save a ton of pars to stay alive. On a day like Thursday with conditions firming up later in the day, that’s not insignificant. He’ll head to cut day in position to make a move up the leaderboard.

T61. Justin Thomas and 17 others (+2): There were impressive moments scattered throughout the round for J.T. with the putter and driver, but it was a grind to get to 2 over. He birdied just once all round and struggled striking the ball with consistency. That’s typically a J.T. hallmark, so perhaps grinding out Round 1 and not playing his way out of contention could spell a bounceback if he can return to his usual form Friday.

T96. Collin Morikawa, Phil Mickelson and 12 others (+4): Ball-striking was immense, control was good, but Morikawa’s short game was brutal as he lost nearly three strokes to the field with his putting. Some of that came in the form of bad luck and burned edges, but more often, it was misreading slopes or misfiring on the tempo of putts that cost him. Three-putting holes 8 and 9 to close the day was a brutal, fitting way to end his opening round. Mickelson turned in a rough performance and was distracted by cell phone noises throughout his round. It’s going to be a massive uphill climb for the PGA Championship winner to go back-to-back after this start, but the career grand slam remains on the line for Lefty.

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