U.S. Open notebook: Jon Rahm struggles with bumpy greens, two amateurs impress

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Jon Rahm of Spain plays his shot from the 8th tee during the first round of the 120th U.S. Open Championship on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. - Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America/TNS

MAMARONECK, N.Y. — World No. 2 Jon Rahm said he was victimized by bumpy greens at the end of the day. He finished at 1-under.

“They’re bentgrass greens that are soft after 140 players went through them. They’re going to get a little bumpy. It’s just how it is. It’s golf. When you’re playing putts with two, three, four feet of break, you’re not hitting them that firm. And when they’re a little bit irregular, you might get some odd bounces. And that’s what happened to me today. I kind of lost confidence with the pace of the putts I was hitting.

Still, Rahm said, “as hard as it is to believe that I’m going to say this, it was relatively stress-free because of how good I hit it. I had a lot of birdie looks out there. I wish I would have made a few, yeah, but still a lot of golf to be played, and hopefully I can keep striking it like this.”

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Thomas Pieters, who missed time after being diagnosed with COVID-19, came out of nowhere to shoot a 66.

“I made my comeback in Wales five weeks ago and I was expecting it to take a couple weeks before I get into like competition mode. And did well there, finished third. So I kind of knocked the rust off and came here with a bit of confidence.”

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John Pak, a 21-year-old amateur from Scotch Plains, N.J., turned in a round of 69.

“This experience has been incredible,” said the Florida State All-American. “It’s everything I thought of. I’m learning a lot and I’m just really excited to be here.”

Amateur Davis Thompson spent some time on top of the U.S. Open leaderboard Thursday and the University of Georgia All-American didn’t look out of place at all.

After finishing the day at 1-under, he said his goal coming in was to “just compete, just do the best that I can.”

“I’m not oblivious to the fact this is my first major championship. I’m going to be nervous but that’s part of it,” he added. “Just compete my tail off, just stay in my routine, just not make it bigger than it is. Just try to play golf like I do every day.”

Thompson strung together birdies on six, seven and eight to lead the tournament at 3-under at the time and again when he got to 4-under with a birdie on 11. He closed with bogeys on 13, 16 and 17.

“I just missed a few fairways coming in and had to hack it out and try to get up and down. Unfortunately, I didn’t,” he said.

“But a great start. That was kind of one of my main goals coming into this championship, just get off to a good start and not get behind the 8-ball.”

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Jordan Spieth’s day got off to a rotten start when his opening tee shot on the first hole got stuck in a tree and never fell to the ground.

The 2015 Open champ was forced to make the long drive back to the tee and managed to make double. It didn’t get a whole lot better as he struggled with his swing. His final score, 73, was a tribute to his short game and what he called “an incredible belief in the grind.”

“There’s a lot that’s off. I’m not really sure. If I knew, I’d fix it,” he said. “Standing on a tee at the U.S. Open and not exactly knowing where the ball is going to go is not a great feeling. It’s not incredibly enjoyable. But I’ll grind it out. I don’t ever give up. I have no reason to. I’m here.”

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Eighteen-year-old Preston Summerhays, the 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, turned in a nice round with a 2-over 72 after getting some advice from fellow Utah resident Tony Finau.

“He was like, ‘Hey, Preston, just go have fun tomorrow. You deserve to be here. Just no matter what you do, it’s going to be a great experience. So that kind of calmed me down a little bit,” Summerhays said.

“To be honest, I was really, really nervous off the first hole. After that, I just kind of settled in and started playing my game.”

Summerhays comes from a pretty good bloodline. His uncle Bruce played on the PGA Tour and his father and caddy, Boyd, is one of the country’s top teachers.

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