Fowler, Scheffler open 123rd U.S. Open with record-setting 62
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Fowler, Scheffler open 123rd U.S. Open with record-setting 62

A photo of golfer Rickie Fowler

LOS ANGELES – It took 127 years to happen once. It only took 22 minutes to happen twice. Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele, playing in consecutive threesomes, fired white-hot 8-under 62s at Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course during the first round of the 123rd U.S. Open Championship.

They broke the U.S. Open record by one stroke – originally set by Johnny Miller and then equaled by five other players - and tied the major championship scoring record set by Branden Grace in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. They lead by two strokes over Wyndham Clark, the winner of this year's Wells Fargo Championship, and Dustin Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open champion who defected to LIV.

Brian Harman and Rory McIlroy are tied for fifth with 5-under 65s.

Fowler also set another U.S. Open record by carding ten birdies in one round, including a run of four consecutive from holes 18 thru three as he transitioned from his front nine to the back side.

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“I knew there was birdies to be made out here, but you have to drive it well and get the ball in position first. Yeah, did that, and from there just managed our way around really well," Fowler said.

The record was preserved with a gritty birdie on the par-5, 523-yard eighth hole after Fowler hit his tee shot in the barranca.

“I knew down there that it had a chance of having a lie and being able to at least get it out and move it forward…I had a gap, and the bridge that was kind of low left,” Fowler explained. “I took a club that I wanted to make sure I got above the bridge just in case I pulled it at all….I knew with where that pin was, I could get a wedge close. I stuck in the ground a bit, but I'll take it. We ended up with a good look and walked away with 4.”

His birdie on the short-but-sexy 330-yard par-3 sixth. Firing on all cylinders, Fowler lasered a wedge to 8 feet, then made the difficult sharply breaking putt. Dead center all the way. The ovation was deafening. L.A. knew what was happening, and they were all in.

Fowler’s resurgence has been long hoped-for but constantly derailed. But early in the season he showed signs of both improvement and consistency, notching top-10 finishes throughout the year. His results underwhelmed expectations in the first two majors of the year, but the breakthrough may have arrived this week. Day 1 may just be “getting to know you” at a major championship, but Fowler has himself in contention to finally get that first official major to go along with his win at The Players Championship. There might perhaps be no better place than his home turf of Southern California. Fowler’s best performance at the Open was a runner-up finish in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2.

Not to be outdone, fellow SoCal wunderkind Xander Schauffele, also seeking his first major, tied Fowler atop the leaderboard immediately after Fowler and his group cleared the green. He posted a clean card: eight birdies, no bogeys.

“The sun didn't come out and it was misting this morning, so I'd say the greens held a little bit more moisture. I think it made the greens sort of a more hole-able speed, almost, and then coming into greens you're able to pull some wedges back,” Schauffele observed, noting that the morning wave had softer conditions.

“And then the fairways are a little bit softer, too, because of that sort of overcast, and without the sun out it's not drying out much. I think fairways are easier to hit and greens are a little bit softer.”

Schauffele birdied all three par 5s on the golf course -- the first, eighth and 14th. And twice he carded back-to-back birdies, at Nos. 1 and 2 and again at Nos. 7 and 8 en route to a score of 30 in his inward nine, the front side of LACC’s North Course. In particular, the birdie on the long, 234-yard par-4 seventh was a thunderbolt.

“That was a 4-iron. What Austin [his caddie] and I would call a tomahawk 4-iron. That's pretty much all I have in my body,” Schauffele offered.

He hit it to four feet and made the putt. It snuck in the right side, but it was still a two on the card at the 260-yard hole. Still Schauffele downplayed tying the major championship record and setting a new record 50 years in the making. He had to repeat several times in the post-round interview that it’s just Day 1, only a good start.

“You guys are interviewing my caddie,” he jested with the assembled media. “He’s not used to this!” he joked in mock protest.

Schauffele has finished among the top 15 in each of the last six U.S. Opens (T-5 at Erin Hills in 2017, T-6 at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, T-3 at Pebble Beach in 2019, 5th at Winged Foot in 2020, T-7 at Torrey Pines in 2021 and T-14 at The Country Club in 2022). The only players with a longer streak than Schauffele since 1920 are Jack Nicklaus (12, 1971-1982), Ben Hogan (12, 1940-1956), Sam Snead (9, 1947-1955) and Bobby Jones (11, 1920-1930).

Will we have a Duel in the Sun (or the Marine Layer)? Might the two of them run away from the field? Round 2 will clarify that question, as may three names in hit pursuit: Wyndham Clark, who shows no signs of flinching, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.

Meanwhile, members of L.A. Country Club are more than mildly chagrined.

“What’s going on?” howled one member. “This is a hard golf course! Really it is!” As birdie after birdie after birdie continued to ring up on the scoreboard and ovations erupted all across the golf course, some friend of his inquired whether we had come to the National Championship or the Quad Cities Open. He practically had an aneurysm.

“This isn’t happening!” he moaned to the heavens.

He’s right. Thursday was the lowest average scoring average for a first round in U.S. Open history, 71.38). It was also the sixth-lowest first round scoring average in major championship history. And finally, and most embarrassingly for the host club, Thursday marked the first time in U.S. Open history that no player shot 80 or higher in the first round of the championship.

How long before we see T-shirts that read, “Can you break par at LACC?”

About the author

Jay Flemma

Jay Flemma

Starting with a blog and a dream, Jay Flemma launched his first sports-writing website in 2004. Some 13 years and 25 major golf championships later, Jay has won multiple national sports writing awards. Besides GNN, his work has appeared in numerous books as well as on-line at Cybergolf,, GolfObserver, and many other sites and print magazines. When not trying to find a lost golf ball, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet, sports and trademark lawyer in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.