Southampton – With strong winds pushing up scores at Shinnecock Hills, Brooks Koepka insisted his first-round 75 wasn’t the death knell of his US Open title defense.
“You know, it’s a US Open,” said Koepka, trying to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to win back-to-back US Open titles.
“You can shoot, whatever, five-over today and shoot one-under tomorrow and be just fine going into the weekend.
“So I’m not too concerned.”
Koepka, ranked ninth in the world, broke through for his first major title at Erin Hills last year, winning with a record-equalling total of 16-under par.
But he missed nearly four months – including this year’s Masters – with a partially torn wrist ligament.
Back at full strength for his US Open title defense, he was greeted at Shinnecock on Thursday by strong, treacherous winds that saw just a handful of players under par.
“Obviously, it’s really tough. The wind’s blowing about as hard as it can,” Koepka said.
“Sometimes you’re having to aim outside the fairway. If the wind’s off to the left, you’re aiming outside into the left rough. And if you just pull it and turn it with the wind, you’re into the left rough.”
Double bogeys at the sixth and 14th and bogeys at 10 and 12 saw Koepka’s score climb.
But he was still the best of his talent-laden group, with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson posting a 77 and former world No 1 Jason Day of Australia signing for a 79.
“I don’t think any of us really got frustrated. I think everybody was just trying to grind it out,” Koepka said. “I mean, it is tough. I would have liked to have those two three-putts back, and I would have taken that and felt I’d played OK.”