SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK | Ian Poulter has competed in 12 previous US Opens at venues as far apart as Winged Foot and Bethpage Black in New York and Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines in California. None was as difficult as Shinnecock Hills for the first round of the 2018 US Open.
Englishman Scott Gregory, in his first year as a pro, went round the par-70 layout in 92. Tiger Woods was 4-over par after two holes. Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth were a combined 15-over par and could not wait to seek the sanctuary of the clubhouse. Rory McIlroy took an 80.
“I have never seen an Open course quite so difficult on such a beautiful day,” Paul Casey said after his 73.
So, Ian, how good was your 69, which for a long time was one of only two sub-par rounds? “It was nice,” the 42-year-old Englishman said. “It’s nice to get into the clubhouse with a red number in the first round of a US Open. I don’t think I have done it before so it’s great to do it.”
Poulter is one of a few pros who played in this event in 2004 when it was last held here. It was his debut, he was excited but then he missed the halfway cut. “I didn’t enjoy it at all,” Poulter said. “I haven’t enjoyed many, to be honest. They are difficult. They are hot. They are stressful. It feels like you’re pulling teeth every hole you play. How I have got any left I don’t know.”
Poulter attributed his success to scrambling well when he had to and to playing the four par-3s in 2-under par. He birdied both the seventh and the 11th.
“I’ve changed my mindset this week,” Poulter said. “I’m here to enjoy my golf this week, to play freely. If I go in the rough, I go in the rough. I don’t want to get too bogged down with it. This is an extremely difficult course in no wind. In one of 25 mph it is exceptional.”
The plan worked – so far. “This is the first of four extremely tough days,” he said. “I can’t start getting excited. There is a long way to go.”