ERIN, WISCONSIN – In what feels like a kinder, gentler U.S. Open, at least for the first round, Rickie Fowler was the perfect fit atop a leaderboard splashed with a surprising number of low scores.
Fowler shot 65 before lunch on Thursday, his 7-under par score at Erin Hills equaling the U.S. Open record for lowest opening round in relation to par.
It didn’t give him much separation – not with Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka just two behind as the afternoon wave set off – but Fowler’s nearly flawless performance was illustrative of what Erin Hills offered on Thursday.
“It was nice,” Fowler said. “You don’t get many stress-free rounds in the U.S. Open.”
Fowler did not have a 5 on his scorecard and took advantage of the breeze from the west that made Erin Hills play shorter than its setup yardage of 7,845 yards. With fairways 50 yards wide and sometimes more, Fowler fired away with his driver (he’s been using a shorter-than-standard 43½-inch driver since March), building on the confidence that has been at the heart of his strong season.
“I don’t need a whole lot more after putting (7 under) up today,” Fowler said.
Fowler likes the way Erin Hills sets up, particularly for him. He complimented the USGA on the playability of the course Thursday and was pleased with how he followed his game plan in the first round.
Reminded that his 7-under start equals the best in the championship’s long history, Fowler preferred to look beyond that.
“It is always cool to be part of some sort of history in golf. But I’d rather be remembered for something that’s done on Sunday,” Fowler said.