Enough about the traffic and what happened in 2004, thankfully, it’s time for some actual golf. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock Hills, and while the historic track — and all its potential treachery — will take center stage, so will a large group of stars playing at a high level. Dustin Johnson, fresh off a six-shot victory in Memphis, will tee off as a 9-to-1 favorite, but close behind are Justin Rose (12/1), and Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler all at 16/1. Then there are the two guys everyone will be paying attention to: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Each will anchor a marquee group on Thursday and Friday with Woods playing alongside DJ and JT (1:47 p.m. ET on Thursday) and Phil grouped with Rory and Jordan Spieth (8:02 on Thursday). As the action gets underway, here are some last-minute thoughts from our editors and a chat with Sergio Garcia. And keep it here for all the latest scores, news and highlights.
11:07 a.m.: OK, it’s a new nine for the morning marquee group and the first hole is the easiest hole on the course. Time to get something going, right? Nope. Mickelson makes a four-footer for par while Spieth makes bogey and McIlroy makes double. Rory is now nine over through 10 holes. HOWEVAH, if he uses what a 15-handicap friend of mine calls “The Standard” (AKA bogey golf), he’s one under. Gotta stay positive.
11:02 a.m.: Jason Day just chipped in on 12! To save par! And stay at six over! U.S. Open, baby!
10:47 a.m.: Jordan Spieth drains a 30-footer birdie putt on 18 to make the turn in . . . 39.
Playing partner Phil Mickelson is also four over, while the third member of the group, Rory McIlroy, cards an opening 42. Let’s hope the afternoon super group of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas fares a bit better.
10:10 a.m.: Matt Kuchar birdies No. 6 to get to two under and tie the early lead with Ian Poulter. Earlier this week, Fox analyst and eight-time PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon said Kuchar was his under-the-radar pick on the Golf Digest Podcast. So if it happens, we’re taking partial credit for that prediction. If it doesnt, we’re never mentioning it again.
9:55 a.m.: Finally, a little life from Rory McIlroy. He rolls in his first birdie on No. 15 (his sixth holed of the day) to get back to (gulp) five over.
9:52 a.m.: Matthew Fitzpatrick rolls in a 30-foot curler for eagle on No. 5. See? This course isn’t that hard. Fitz joins a group of eight players currently under par, led by Charley Hoffman at -2.
9:35 a.m.: Shinnecock is playing tough from tee to green, but the wind is also wreaking havoc on the putting surfaces. Take the story of Scott Stallings, who found the green with his third shot on the par-4 14th, but walked away with a NINE.
9:30 a.m.: Spieth makes his longest putt of the day, a 10-footer, but it’s for another bogey. Meanwhile, McIlroy makes a second straight double bogey. At three over through five holes, Mickelson is dusting his playing partners. Fox Sports just came on the air with their coverage. They might be showing a lot less of the morning marquee group than planned if this keeps up. . .
9:10 a.m.: Justin Rose, the second-favorite (and my pick) to win, has moved to red numbers through five holes. Meanwhile, the early marquee group of Phil, Rory and Jordan is a combined 11 over through four holes. Yikes.
8:55 a.m.: Jordan Spieth is not the only big name struggling early at Shinnecock. Playing partners Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are both two over through three, Jason Day is three over through four, and Bubba Watson is three over through three.
Somewhere, Mike Davis is smiling.
8:43 a.m.: After birdieing his first two holes, Patrick Reed bogeys No. 3. I’ll admit, that GRAND SLAM call may have been just a tad premature. . .
8:31 a.m.: The good news for Jordan Spieth? He rammed in a five-footer on his second hole after a miss from a similar distance on his first. The bad news? It was for TRIPLE BOGEY. Yep, Jordan Spieth is four over through two holes. Not an ideal start.
8:28 a.m.: Reigning Masters champ Patrick Reed birdies the first two holes. Patrick Reed is winning the GRAND SLAM!!!
8:23 a.m.: BEEF!!!! Andrew “Beef” Johnston birdies his first hole and that’s good news for everyone. Why? Because if the Brit wins this tournament, you can pick up a free sandwich from Arby’s on July 4th. Man, if you thought he was popular now. . .
8:19 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, whose putting struggles have been well-documented this year, leaves himself a four-footer for par on his first hole and. . . doesn’t touch the hole. Ouch. Mickelson also bogeys, which McIlroy misses a good look at birdie and settles for par.
8:10 a.m.: Mickelson, McIlroy and Spieth all find the fairway on the par-4 10th, their first hole of the day. However, Mickelson goes long, Spieth only finds the front of the green and McIlroy hits a nice shot to about 10 feet. The wind is howling, folks! Well, it’s actually pretty typical for this area, but it’s certainly a force. Even with some softer conditions from yesterday’s rain, we could see some carnage today!
7:55 a.m.: Defending champ Brooks Koepka birdies the opening hole. We’re going to have a repeat, people! OK, not so fast. You will probably see a lot of birdies on the 399-yard, downhill par 4, which is arguably Shinnecock’s easiest hole. Things get a lot tougher after that. . . But still, it’s a nice start for Koepka, who rolled in a 40-footer to quickly get into red numbers.