Adam Hadwin leads, Rory McIlroy in pursuit at the US Open

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Brooklyn, Mass. – So who is your favorite of that tangled six-man group near the top of the US Open leaderboard after the opening round? Do you take players only known to golf courses and ranked 592, 445, 296, 130 or 105? Would you take the 445th Englishman whose clubs got stuck at Toronto airport so he had to walk around here Sunday with only a wedge? Would you take the 592nd Swede who wasn’t in a major five years ago but got into this after playing his last three qualifying holes in the dark of Ohio, then didn’t qualify, and then got in when Martin Kaymer pulled out?

Or do you take Rory McIlroy?

Of course you do in the latter, but they’re all there, so much that at 5:42 p.m. on Thursday there was a first seven-way link between some people you knew and others you never thought you’d know: MJ Dafoe, Joel Dahmin , Matt Fitzpatrick, Adam Hadwin, David Lingmirth, McIlroy, and Callum Tarin.

That’s right, it seems, and then by evening they were a little shaken up: Canadian Hadwin was in the lead at 4 under and their five-way tie for second between England’s Tarin, Swede Lingmirth, South African Dafoe, American Dahman and global icon McIlroy (from Northern Ireland).

“You would have taken roughly 67 on this course any day,” McIlroy previously said, and you would do it boy because five people clearly did.

The group stood densely and populously under No. 66 Hadwin even though they lost Fitzpatrick, the hip pick of the cognoscenti, when they cheered on No. 18. Fitzpatrick will be the 27-year-old Englishman from Sheffield, ranked 18th in the world who won the 2013 Amateur States United in this country club course which rarely conducts majors, which makes his experience here unusual in the field, which he came close to. Last month at the PGA Championship in Tulsa, he lamented his 3-over 73 shutdown by strictly observing, “I shot a par today, and I totally won it.”

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By Thursday evening, in the feud again at 2 under, he called it “different” for being a hip pick and said, “I have great memories of the place, and the whole time I’ve been outside, I see hit shots and I see the places I’ve been in. I think it’s because of that.” I feel a little more comfortable.”

He thrived on a path that players seemed to fancy but couldn’t bury. Nobody got to 5 under each day, only Hadwin and McIlroy got to 4 under, but a lot of people were below level: 25 of them all said. They included 12 people in tier 1 under, and two former US Open champions (Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose) among the seven in tier 2 under.

This became the second consecutive major in which McIlroy announced the controversy early on, following his 65th opening in the PGA. (He ended up turning eight.) “I’m going to tomorrow with the mindset of, ‘Let’s keep going,’ rather than ‘Where’s the cut line?'” “Or whatever,” he said, after refraining from digging a chasm during some 28 long and foggy majors since his last big win at the 2014 PGA Championship.

With closing in and a 62nd win in the Canadian Open on Sunday newly in the books, McIlroy answered a question about whether he was motivated by the raucous defections to Saudi-backed LIV Golf. He said, “Not really.” “It’s been eight years since I won a major, and I just want to get my hands on it again.”

Jon Ram and Colin Morikawa fight through a stranger to start the US Open

He started early, and those who succeeded most thrived. Five holes with no wind, Champion John Ram smashed himself for a moment when he said, “I was thinking, ‘We’re going to blow the roof off this place.'” British Open champion Colin Morikawa, two-time winner of the tournament at the age of 25, called it “possible,” a word that was held back if not condemned in most US openers. Both shots were 1-under 69sec. Then Ram et al. In the feel of the crosswind, the crosswind became solid until the afternoon, and the results settled in fine if not unruly.

All the while, galleries continued to be presented to people.

Here came Hadwin, 34, late in the day, ranked 105th, number three among Canadians, and winning the only PGA Tour at the 2017 Valspar Championship.

“This year has really been in the making,” Hadwin said. “We set out on a journey, I think, last March, [swing coach Mark Blackburn] And I’m not for changing the golf swing but for changing the face of the putter in the swing, which may be more difficult in and of itself.”

Here comes Tarren, 31, at 445, participating in two majors (the 2019 US Open and the other), so make those two majors where his club didn’t make it to the baggage claim. “I go there [from Toronto], No clubs,” he said. “There were five other players on my flight. They all got putters, so this was my second time playing at the US Open, and the second time, no putters.” It was solved by Monday with the help of some of those 38 million useful souls: the Canadians.

Here came Lingmerth, 34, at number 592, seven long years after his 2015 anniversary win. “Yeah, I’ve been through a tough period since basically late 2018,” he said. “He had a bunch of injuries etc. There have been some tough days, and you won’t lie, and you kind of start asking yourself these questions. But I am very stubborn, and I am not one to give up.”

Here came Dahmin, 34, 130 and in his ninth major, savoring a course of kind enough to refrain from asking everyone to hit her like Hercules (or McIlroy). He said, “If you look at my game and what I am, for me to tour for six years and play this well, that’s probably an overkill, some say. I wasn’t entirely American. I wasn’t the best. . . . . I knew I could compete.” Here because it wasn’t too long ago. Yes, like the winged foot [in 2020] stood for me. I didn’t have a chance to fight there.”

And here comes Dafoe, 33, whose life changed at the age of 11 when he and his father played a tour with two-time US Open champion Retief Josen, a South African national who still cheers. “We never talked about advice,” he said. Once I asked him, I said, ‘Hey, how do you do well under pressure in the US Opens? ‘ He said, ‘I’ve done it a few times.’ It makes a lot of sense, actually. The more I do it, the more I get used to it.”

And of course McIlroy came here. I’ve heard that before.

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