Homa happy with start in his hometown U.S. Open
LOS ANGELES (AP) — For someone who hates Thursdays and the first round of tournaments — especially majors — Max Homa ended up having a pretty good morning.
Homa had his best round in a U.S. Open, a 2-under 68 while playing in front of mostly family and friends at Los Angeles Country Club. Homa grew up in Valencia.
“I think that they have the old cliche that you can’t win it the first day, you could lose it, and I lose a lot of these things on the first day," Homa said. "So it’s nice to just go out there and treat it like a round of golf and not put too much on it.”
Homa's previous low in the U.S. Open was a 1-under 69 in last year's first round at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. Thursday's round was his second time breaking par in 11 tries at the U.S. Open.
Homa, who is No. 7 in the world, said the morning crowd was subdued, and he speculated that wouldn't be the case Friday afternoon or over the weekend.
The highlight of his day was a 35-footer for birdie on the par-3 15th hole.
Homa shot a course-record 61 at LACC in the Pac-12 Championship in 2013. He wasn't shocked when Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele threatened his mark — and set a U.S. Open record — by shooting 8-under 62s.
“It’s a great round. But the greens just aren’t very firm,” Homa said. “If you drive the ball well, you have a lot of iron shots. It’s very impressive, but they’re tremendous golfers.”
Phil Mickelson began his 32nd U.S. Open with a 69 and a grandstand heckler in a sombrero.
The six-time major champion stayed in the hunt the day before his 53rd birthday despite bogeying two of his final three holes. He also bounced back after being forced to back off a putt on the ninth hole by the heckler, who mentioned LIV Golf and a host of additional complaints about Lefty before security intervened.
“I made two bad swings that cost me a few strokes, but I hit a lot of good shots today,” Mickelson said. “It’s a decent start, and I have a chance (Friday) morning to come out and shoot a good solid round to get myself in position for the weekend, and morning is the time to do it when it’ll still be a little bit soft.”
He also declined to discuss the announced partnership between LIV and the PGA Tour. Mickelson's infamously pointed criticisms of the PGA Tour were one of the biggest flashpoints in the messy defections to LIV.
“I don’t want to detract right now from this tournament and where I’m at,” Mickelson said. “I’m playing well. I want to get myself in contention. I’ll talk about it maybe after.”
The weather was mild and Scottie Scheffler was running hot.
He began the U.S. Open by driving into a bunker, blasting out, finding another bunker and making bogey on the par-5 first hole. He missed a 6-foot birdie attempt on the sixth. And then on the par-5 eighth, his shot from the rough sailed right into a bunker, leaving him short-sided without a reasonable chance at birdie.
He slammed his club into the ground walking on a path through the barranca. When his bunker shot ran some 25 feet by the hole, he whacked the rake with his sand wedge.
A birdie on the par-3 ninth settled him. Scheffler birdied the next hole and, despite a three-putt bogey on his final hole, walked away with a 67.
“What I’m most proud of my round today was I got off to the slow start,” he said “The front nine is easier than the back nine, and I think I played the par 5s 1 over today. It was frustrating to get off to that slow of a start, but I still was able to shoot 3 under.”
That put him five behind the leaders and very much in the mix. Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, has not finished out of the top 12 in the 13 tournaments he has played this year.
Also to his relief, his putter largely cooperated. Scheffler had been losing shots to the field on the greens over his previous 14 rounds going into the U.S. Open. On Thursday, he was around 30th in the field in putting as the first round was finishing.
Wyndham Clark started the U.S. Open with an eagle, and he kept soaring from there.
Clark shot a 64 and sat tied for third with Dustin Johnson, two strokes off the lead after the first round at LACC. As evidenced by his score, Clark wasn't overly threatened by Los Angeles Country Club's North Course, although he knows it'll get tougher.
“It was pretty benign, to be honest,” Clark said. “Tees were up. The pins weren’t crazy tough. There wasn’t that much wind, and then it wasn’t that firm. If you hit it in the fairway, you had a good chance to make birdies on most of the holes. If you missed fairways, it was still challenging, but I thought it was very gettable today.”
The 29-year-old former high school classmate of the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey is looking good again after collecting his first PGA Tour victory last month at Quail Hollow.
Clark rolled in a long eagle putt on the 594-yard first hole, and he made three more birdies with one bogey on his front nine. Four more birdies and two bogeys later, he was in good shape.
“As much as you try not to make it any different from any other tournament, majors just have a little different buzz,” Clark said. “But yeah, 6-under in any major is usually really, really good, especially a U.S. Open.”
Matthieu Pavon made a little French history in the U.S. Open.
Pavon became the first player from France to make a hole-in-one at this major, hitting gap wedge that spun back into the cup on the 124-yard 15th hole.
“The ball went straight where I wanted,” he said. “So after getting that hole-in-one it’s just like a bit of luck, but that shot from the strike to the end was just a perfect shot. I don't know how many players have got a hole-in-one in a U.S. Open. It’s quite cool to be part of this group of people and it’s my first as a professional.”
The only French player with an ace in a major was Thomas Levet in the 2009 British Open at Turnberry.
Pavon wasn't the only player with a 1 on the card Thursday. Sam Burns also aced the 15th hole in the opening round at LACC.
Burns' shot bounced three times and rolled into the cup. He tossed his sand wedge backward over his head with both hands, high-fived his caddie, took off his cap to acknowledge the gallery, and then continued high-fiving or fist-bumping everyone else in the group.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham contributed to this report.
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