Expect Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, More to Climb Leaderboard

LOS ANGELES – It took 123 editions of the US Open Championship before the first 62 were broadcast.

It took 22 minutes for the next one.

Rickie Fowler made history Thursday, making 10 birdies to break the long-standing single-round record first accomplished by Johnny Miller at Oakmont exactly 50 years ago this week.

Xander Schauffele played two groups behind and quickly joined Fowler in the record books. Dustin Johnson and Wyndham Clark later added scores of 64 in the afternoon wave.

Through a round that was record high for scores atop the leaderboard, scoring average in a single round and the lack of a single round in the 80s, social media was in a collective uproar over a US Open that looked wildly un-U.S. Open- likes.

All of which adds to the need for this quick history lesson.

Back in the 1980 edition of this event at Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course, Tom Weiskopf and Jack Nicklaus posted matching first-round totals of 7-under 63. As the legendary Thomas Boswell wrote in the Washington Post, “no day in the Open annuals ever seen such a sacrilegious deluge of low scores as the blitz that struck rain-soaked, defenseless Lower Baltusrol in this windless first round.”

That sentence could have been a glorious triumph of wordsmithing, but it lacked foreknowledge.

Three days later, Nicklaus won with an 8-under total, while only four other players finished under par.

Moral of the story: Even 43 years later, we should expect the USGA Revenge Tour over the next three days.

Behind closed doors, USGA officials admitted they wanted to play it safe in the opening frame, not wanting to start too devilishly on a course that had never hosted this tournament before. Expect to see very different conditions as the event continues. Warmer temperatures will help firm fairways and bake greens, while a few more back tees and devilish pin positions should rear their ugly heads.

In fact, don’t be shocked if the 8-under leading score matches the winning score when this ends Sunday night.

With so many players in prime position after the first round, the live odds at the top of the board don’t offer much value. Schauffele (+300) is the favorite, followed by Rory McIlroy (+500), Scottie Scheffler (+650), Fowler (+650), Johnson (+850), Clark (+1200) and Jon Rahm (+1800).

With that in mind, I’m looking at three superstars whose prices are multiplied from their original numbers as potential live options going into the second round.

Jon Rahm (+1800)

If you watched Rahm’s performance and judged it solely on his demeanor, rather than the score, you’d think he was in last place. On several occasions, Rahm looked ready to break a club over his knee, only to control himself at the last second. He seemed similarly shocked when a few putts failed to reach their intended destination. And yet, when he finished, the score next to his name was a 1-under 69, meaning there’s work to be done, but he’s hardly out of it. After winning at least two strokes with both his irons and putts, we should have reason to believe that the world’s most talented player — that’s right, Scheffler people, I said it — will be right back.

Brooks Koepka (+4500)

Going into the opening round, I said repeatedly that Koepka, who finished second at the Masters and won the PGA Championship, could have been Occam’s Razor all along — basically that the simplest explanation for trying to find a winner too could end. is the correct explanation. Like Rahm, he seemed frustrated through a 1-over 71 that frankly didn’t show much reason for optimism, other than the fact that he’s a fierce competitor. I like him when the conditions start to get tougher and I like that he will theoretically have an easier time in Friday’s morning wave. At quadrupling his opening odds, he is worth a thought.

Cameron Smith (+5500)

My pre-tournament pick to win, Smith’s round was a series of pump fakes as three of his four birdies were followed by a bogey within a couple of holes. In the end, he finished with a 1-under 69. That said, he was positive strokes gained (by nearly a full stroke) in every major category except around-the-greens. I initially liked him because I assumed that creativity and imagination would be at a premium at LACC. I believe that will be the case even more going forward and he makes good sense to continue moving up the board as it gets harder. At almost double his original number, I don’t mind doubling down.

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