18 Sep 2020 | Professional golf |

Aussies hang tough, stay in mix

by Mark Hayes

Adam Scott's putter kept him in US Open contention. Picture: USGA
Adam Scott's putter kept him in US Open contention. Picture: USGA

Two pairs of late birdies have Adam Scott and Cameron Smith handy after day one of the US Open in New York.

On an unexpectedly and comparatively benign Winged Foot, the Queensland pair heads up the nine-strong Aussie contingent at one-over-par 71.

The only real surprise on a course that has traditionally terrorised major championship players is that they’re six behind leader Justin Thomas.

Jason Day and Lucas Herbert are also still well in the mix at two over, while Marc Leishman is poised at three over despite not having a birdie.

Scott Hend finished at four over and Curtis Luck at five over both showed glimpses of form during their rounds.

But Matt Jones at six over and amateur Lukas Michel at 10 over both endured multiple double-bogeys - or worse - to leave their respective challenges floundering despite some quality birdies.

World No.12 Scott’s round could have gone the same way after an uncharacteristic rollercoaster ride.

Scott, who began his round on the 10th hole, was two over by the time he reached the sixth and hit a solid drive to the jaws of the almost driveable par-4.

But a heavy chip cost him his birdie chance, then a bogey on the par-3 seventh had him teetering slightly.

But the 2013 Masters champ responded in style, rolling in a 7m putt on the eighth, then drilling his approach from 55m on the ninth to kick-in distance to close in style.

“I needed it. I was kind of stalling at the end there. Hit a really good drive down eight (and) actually pulled my second shot into the green but got away with it, rolled it in, took advantage of that one,” Scott said.

“Then hit a really great pitch … on the last to a tap-in (range). It was a nice way to finish the round. Lunch is going to taste a lot better.”

US Open day one leaderboard_image

Scott said his putting was on point, but would need to sharpen up his approach work for round two.

“I was a little scratchy into the greens when I missed a couple fairways, and you can't be too critical about your shots into the greens from there.

“But when I was in the fairway, I just wasn't quite dialed in and missed a couple of greens, like on the 7th.

“If I can straighten it out with the irons, everything else feels good.”

Smith, too, had looked in trouble when he leaked to three over at the turn, having also started on the 10th.

But a laser approach on the first, then another to 3m on the second set up back-to-back birdies before he parred home.

Day had three minutes of torment on the third green, his 12th, when his tee shot on the long par-3 finished within 20m of the hole but in deep rough.

He hacked it out, but took another three putts for a double-bogey that spoiled an otherwise find round.

Herbert, who’s growing in confidence on golf’s biggest stages, showed more than the occasional flash of brilliance today with four birdies among six bogeys.

“Just an average day … it could have been better, but not horrible,” the young Victorian said after his afternoon round.

“(If I) can take advantage of good greens in the morning … I’ll get myself into a nice position.”

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