Michael Thorbjornsen (USGA/Grant Halverson)
Leading the U.S. Amateur after the first round of stroke play guarantees nothing more than a restful night's sleep, which Chris Francoeur
, Luke Gutschewski
, Hazen Newman
, Campbell Kramer and Michael Thorbjornsen
will undoubtedly enjoy tonight in their Paramus, NJ. hotel rooms.
The five co-leaders carded 3-under rounds of 68 in their opening rounds Monday at The Ridgewood Country Club, where 11 players managed to shoot sub-par scores compared to neighboring Arcola Country Club, which yielded only five rounds in red numbers.
A strong pre-tournament favorite, Thorbjornsen, opened his round with a birdie on Ridgewood's ninth hole, then made nine consecutive pars before making his second birdie of the day on his 11th hole. Playing in his fifth U.S. Amateur, the 20-year-old Wellesley, Mass. native who attends Stanford moved to 4-under with a birdie on the 13th before settling for a 3-under 69.
“Just not being surprised by anything, like how long the rough is, how fast the greens are, stuff like that,” said Thorbjornsen, the 2021 Western Amateur champion who finished fourth in the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., in June, a week after his second U.S. Open start. “I just feel very comfortable out here.”
Francoeur, who played collegiately at Rhode Island and Louisville, is no stranger to Northeast golf. A native of Amesbury, Mass., the beginning and end of Francoeur's opening round were rather inauspicious, but the middle portion was really solid.
Starting on Ridgewood's par-4, 496-yard ninth hole, Francoeur shook off an opening bogey and preceded to collect six birdies over his next 12 holes to move to 5-under on his round. Two bogeys on his last three holes led to a 3-under round of 68.
Francoeur wasn’t in the field until last week, when his ex-college teammate and close friend Jiri Zuska
, of the Czech Republic, became exempt by finishing in the top five of the Elite Amateur Series.
Zuska was the medalist at the Berkshire Hills Country Club qualifier on June 30 in Pittsfield, Mass., with Francoeur earning first-alternate status. When Zuska became fully exempt, Francoeur got his spot.
“He stayed with me for the first two months of the summer, so I guess he owed me one there,” said Francoeur.
Gutschewski, the Iowa State golfer from Elkhorn, Neb. whose father Scott is a two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, went out in even par but picked up three birdies on his inward nine for a tidy 69.
Newman and Kramer also carded 3-under rounds of 68 at Ridgewood, while the third member of the "Seinfeld" pairing, Mark Costanza, finished at 3-over 74.
One back is two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad
, who holed out his second shot on the par-4, 452-yard fourth hole from 163 yards out with an 8-iron en route to shooting a 2-under 69 at Ridgewood.
“I double-crossed one off the first tee, and then I double-crossed an iron off the second tee, and then I double-crossed a drive off the third tee and it hit a tree and knocked me back inbounds," said Hagestad, who is playing in his 13th U.S. Amateur, most in the field. "At that point, I didn't really know where the ball was going. If you had told me after the third hole, I would have shot 2 under I would have walked straight in and had cocktails.”
Christo Lamprecht Christo Lamprecht
, the 6-foot-8 South African who plays collegiately at Georgia Tech, posted the lowest round of the day at Arcola with a 2-under 69 while Texas Longhorn Travis Vick
, the low amateur at this year's U.S. Open opened with a solid round of 70.
“I guess the overall expectation of this tournament, it's hard,” said Lamprecht, who will represent his country Aug. 31-Sept 3 in the World Amateur Team Championship in France. “It’s the U.S. Open of amateur golf. There's not a lot of birdies given to you. You've just got to play smart golf and not get carried away.”
Some notable players who struggled in Round 1 were this year’s NCAA champion Gordon Sargent
(74 at Ridgewood), who will represent the USA in the World Amateur Team Championship in France at the end of the month; 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Nick Dunlap
(79 at Ridgewood); 2021 USA Walker Cup competitor William Mouw
(75 at Ridgewood); 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale
(80 at Ridgewood); and 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Bo Jin
(74 at Arcola) all have work to do on Day 2.
Both courses played significantly over their par: Arcola (par 70 – 75.7) and Ridgewood (par 71 – 76.4). Last year at Oakmont, the highest first-round score recorded by a player advancing to match play was 76 (4 golfers).
Each of the 312 competitors will switch courses for Tuesday’s second round of stroke play, after which the low 64 scorers advance to match play. Should a playoff be necessary to determine the final spots in the draw, it will take place on Wednesday morning at Ridgewood.
The USGA contributed to this report.