PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Justin Rose closed out his opening round with three straight birdies to lead the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which was all he could want.
He got a little more.
Rose knew what was at stake when he stood over a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole in twilight Thursday from watching the telecast some six hours earlier, and from seeing Tiger Woods standing on the edge of the green.
“I was thinking, ‘This would be kind of cool doing it front of the great man himself,’” Rose said.
Make the putt and he not only had the lead, he would tie the U.S. Open record at Pebble Beach for the lowest round, a 6-under 65 posted by Woods in 2000 during his record romp. Rose lightly pumped his fist when it fell and soaked up the moment.
In a gentle start to the toughest test in golf, Rose had a one-shot lead on a day so accommodating that more than three dozen players broke par.
“I wouldn’t say it’s exhilarating, because I feel like my mindset is I am in a 72-hole tournament,” Rose said. “This is just a very small step toward outcome. So you don’t feel that buzz that you would on a Sunday, but you can’t help but look around over your shoulder and ... damn, this is Pebble Beach. Shot 65 and you’re in the U.S. Open. It’s a cool moment. Whatever transpires the rest of the week, it was a cool moment.”
It was an ideal start for Rose and for the USGA, which wants a smooth ride after four years of various mishaps in the U.S. Open. The idea was to start safe and make the course progressively more difficult, and a forecast of dry weather for the week should make that easier to control.
This was the day to take advantage, especially with a cool, overcast sky for most of the day.
Rose knew the record because he was watching when Rickie Fowler had a birdie putt for a 65 earlier in the day. Fowler missed and had to settle for a 66. He was tied with Aaron Wise and two others who had big finishes.
Xander Schauffele caught a break when his tee shot on the 18th caromed off the rock edge of the left fairway, setting up a 12-foot eagle. Louis Oosthuizen finished on No. 9 by holing a bunker shot for a birdie. It felt almost as good as the wedge he holed from 95 yards for eagle on No. 11.
Woods took advantage of the scoring holes with three birdies, but there was one blunder — a tee shot he hooked on the par-3 fifth that smacked off the cart path into gnarly, deep grass some 20 yards behind the edge of the bleachers. He blasted that out beyond the green and made double bogey.
After two straight birdies, he finished with 11 straight pars for a 70.
“Pebble Beach, you have the first seven to get it going, and after that it’s a fight,” Woods said. “I proved that today. I was trying to just hang in there today. Rosey proved the golf course could be had.”