Through 18 holes at the 2019 U.S. Open, the leaderboard looks eerily similar to a practice round at Karsten Creek. Rickie Fowler is T2, Viktor Hovland — still an amateur! — is T16, and Austin Eckroat (also still an amateur!) is tied with wily veteran Charles Howell III at T58.
Fowler was the story of the day after firing off a 5-under 66, one shot off leader Justin Rose and tied with Xander Schauffele, Aaron Wise, and Louis Oosthuizen. He turned in a near spotless scorecard with only one bogey, which came on No. 9, and six birdies.
Speaking of birdies, this is quite relevant #content:
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 14, 2019
Hovland was the birdie king Thursday. Despite posting a 2-under 69, he carded birdies on holes 2, 3, 5, 6, 17 and 18, which kept him afloat amid some other blow-ups. He doubled the par 4 No. 8, and bogeyed 10 and 14 before finishing the final four holes at 2-under.
All the more incredible about Hovland’s day was that he stood up well against playing partners Brooks Koepka, the two-time U.S. Open champion who is at this moment the hottest golfer in the game, and Francesco Molinari. Molinari is 3-under through day one and Koepka and Hovland posted matching 2-unders.
Friday action for Fowler starts late; he’s set to go off the tenth hole to start his round at 3:47 p.m. with Si Woo Kim and Jason Day. As for Hovland, it’s an early morning. He, Molinari and Koepka go off at 10:02 a.m. starting on the 10th hole.
In an all-OSU pairing, Howell III, Eckroat and Alex Noren will be one of the first groups off the tee box with a 9:18 a.m. start time.