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Just minutes from campus, Omar Morales of UCLA hits the opening shot at the U.S. Open
Omar Morales hits the opening tee shot at Los Angeles CC in the U.S. Open<br>Chris Keane, USGA
Omar Morales hits the opening tee shot at Los Angeles CC in the U.S. Open
Chris Keane, USGA

On Thursday at 6:45 am, a small crowd gathered around the Los Angeles Country Club clubhouse, ready for the U.S. Open to get underway.

After 75 years, The Open was back in the City of Angels, and amateur Omar Morales of Mexico was given the honor of hitting the first tee shot. The tee shot is pretty open, but the entire right side of the par 5 opening hole is flanked by daunting sky boxes. And then there's the fact that the tee itself is located on the part of the putting green, turning a member hole of around 550 yards into a full 594.

After a brief hug with his father, a tall and slim Morales stepped to the tee, listed for his announcement, and then proceeded to lace a drive straight down the middle, in the 320-yard range.

"He absolutely bombs it," said a member of the UCLA team in the gallery, when asked if Morales was the longest on their team.

After hitting the par-5 first hole in two and making an easy birdie, Morales showed the experience of his two dozen trips around LACC by hitting fairways and greens. Perhaps most impressive beyond his prodigious length was his distance control on long putts.

On the driveable par 4 6th hole, Morales played for the tiny landing area in front of the green, risking a disastrous trip into a hillside with more than ankle high rough had he missed. One creative chip later, and Morales was at 2-under and showing up on top of the leaderboard. He hit a gorgeous approach onto the par 5 8th hole, and nearly missed an eagle to get to 4-under.

"I always hit driver on 6," said Morales after the round. "Just a high, spinny cut. If it lands on the green, it stays. If it doesn't, you know, it's either where I ended up today or in either one of the bunkers." It's good to be young!

The way Morales pieced together a 3-under front nine made us all happy we got up early to witness it, and it made us wonder if we were witnessing the start of something extraordinary.

In fact, Morales was laying down the gauntlet that the front nine could be had today, as evidenced by the three scores of 5-under 30 posted by Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, and Rory McIlroy.

Unfortunately for Morales, the red numbers ended before he crossed the bridge to the 9th hole green.

A stretch of three straight bogeys early on the back nine (and one more on No. 17) brought Morales back to earth but did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm or take away from the value of an opening round 71, which puts Morales in a good position to play the weekend.

"On the back, I didn't really feel like I hit that many bad shots," he said. "The drive on 12 was pretty bad, but then the drive on 13 that ended up in the rough, was a yard off the fairway. Same with 17."

Gordon Sargent of Vanderbilt paces the 19-player amateur contingent after a 1-under 69.

Results: U.S. Open
T39ALGordon SargentMountain Brook, AL70069-71-75-69=284
62GABen CarrColumbus, GA50070-72-75-76=293
64South AfricaAldrich PotgieterSouth Africa50070-72-74-79=295
65OHMaxwell MoldovanUniontown, OH50071-71-76-79=297
MCEnglandBarclay BrownEngland071-74=145

View full results for U.S. Open

ABOUT THE U.S. Open

The U.S. Open is the biggest of the 14 national championships conducted by the USGA. Open to amateurs and professionals.

The USGA intends to make the U.S. Open the most rigorous, yet fair, examination of golf skills, testing all forms of shot-making. The USGA prepares the course after careful consideration of 14 different factors.

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