Sam Bernard, Matt Wallace’s caddy had said ” the Oak Hill design is brutal “. We couldn’t wait to see what sauce the players were going to eat this Thursday morning. After departures staggered by 1h50 due to temperatures close to zero and the thin film of frost present on the fairways, the East course was packed to show what it was capable of. The morning draw was not disappointed: a handful of players under par and favorites taken by the throat.
Jon takes out the oars
After his success at the Masters last April on a much more permissive Augusta National course, Jon Rahm tripped over the Oak Hill rough. Under the ” go Rahmbo Chanted by a good part of the Rochester fans, the world number one started well by returning a nice 5m putt for birdie at 10. But then, not much.
Less precise on his face-offs (only 6 fairways hit out of 14), the Spaniard finally fought all day to save pars and limit damage. But Oak Hill was ruthless with the two-time Major winner returning a +6 (76) card. ” The main thing on this course is to find the fairway to give yourself a good chance of finding the flags afterwards. I played well on the first seven holes finding the right areas. Then I really fought against the course and every time I couldn’t find the fairway it cost me dearly. I also regret my 3 little missed putts on the last nine which complicate the bill a little more. Without it, I would have only done +3 and it’s not the worst case scenario. Rahm is currently 129th.
Rory hangs on
Just ahead of Rahm’s game, Rory McIlroy, after his missed Masters, was also expected in this 2nd Major of the season. Widely supported by the Rochester crowd, the former world number one also suffered at Oak Hill but clung to the end as he putt for the par at 2 from outside the green after saw his chip come down behind the green. A turning point in Rory’s game, who then signs two birdies to clean up his card a bit, marred by three bogeys on his way out. ” It was really tough today with quite a bit of crosswind. It was difficult to catch the fairways. Even when my faceoffs were good, I wasn’t often on the track. To be honest, I was hoping for a better score because when you’re on the fairways, there are opportunities for birdies. “In the end, the Northern Irishman comes out of his first lap with a score of 71 (+1) and finds himself provisionally 45th.
Up front, a great day for Bryson DeChambeau. The LIV Golf player is the leader at midday with his 66 (-4) on shots at 4:32 p.m. local time.