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Matsuyama grinds out a 69 to lie two back at U.S. Open

Two months after winning the Masters Tournament, Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama showed up on the leaderboard once again in another major championship on Thursday.

Matsuyama battled to a 2-under 69 in the first round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines to share fifth place with two-time champion Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele and lie two back of clubhouse leader Russell Henley. Louis Oosthuizen sits on 4-under with two holes remaining when darkness suspended play.

Korea’s Si Woo Kim returned an even-par 71 which featured five birdies while Sungjae Im was 1-over through 16 holes. Sung Kang signed for a 75 while K.H. Lee shot a 76 to leave themselves with some work to do on Friday to make the halfway cut.

The 29-year-old Matsuyama penciled down three birdies against a lone bogey to put himself in the chase for more major glory. In April, he became only the second male Asian golfer to win a major and the first male golfer from his nation to achieve the feat.

He drained a lengthy putt from about 50 feet on the par-3, 11th hole which was the highlight of his day after making a nine-footer on No. 3 and a 13-footer on 10.

“I played really good today and hopefully I can keep up the same momentum,” said Matsuyama, a winner of six PGA TOUR titles. “I love it here. I'm glad it's a (U.S. Open) venue, but it's sure was a lot tougher than when we play here at the Farmers (Insurance Open).”

Making his ninth start at the U.S. Open, Matsuyama’s best is a tied second in 2017 at Erin Hills and her is showing the kind of form that could see him challenging for more success this weekend. His breakthrough at Augusta National no doubt added to the frenzy for the game in Japan, which is the largest golf market after the U.S and he knows the weight of a golf-mad nation remains squarely on his shoulders.

“All I can do is my best. It's good to be a major title winner, and hopefully, that momentum will carry through this week. Around the greens is very difficult, especially compared to when we play earlier in the year. It is going to be a really difficult test, and there are some places where you just can't miss it around the greens.

“It is a special week. It's not only a major, but it requires you to drive the ball in the fairway and hit greens. Fairway and greens are really important. Par is a good score at the U.S. Open. You just have to avoid the bogeys from time to time.”

Kim, a three-time TOUR winner, paid dearly for a double bogey on the 12th hole after finding trouble with the gnarly rough which punishes errant drives. However, the young Korean fought back with birdies on Hole Nos. 1, 2, 7, 16 and 18, against three other bogeys on his card.

PARTIAL First-Round Notes – Thursday, June 17, 2021


Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 71. Wind SW 4-8 mph. The start of the round was delayed 1 hour, 30 minutes due to fog and began at 8:15 a.m. PT. The first round was suspended due to darkness with 36 players left on the course and will resume Friday at 6:50 a.m. PT.


Current Leaderboard

Russell Henley                        67 (-4)

Louis Oosthuizen                    -4 thru 16*

Francesco Molinari                 68 (-3)

Rafa Cabrera Bello                 68 (-3)                       


Russell Henley (T1/-4)

  • Sixth career score of 67 or better in a major championship and first since the 2018 PGA Championship (65/R2)
  • Best result in 26 career major championship appearances: T11/2017 Masters Tournament
  • Eighth start in the U.S. Open and first since 2018; two prior top-25s (T16/2010 as an amateur, T25/2018)
  • Three top-fives in 18 starts during the 2020-21 season (T3/THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK, T3/The Honda Classic, T4/ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD) 

Louis Oosthuizen (T1/-4 thru 16*)

  • One of three players to finish in the top 10 at the U.S. Open in 2019 (T7) and 2020 (3rd); others: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele
  • Four top-10s in 11 prior starts at the U.S. Open, highlighted by a T2 in 2015
  • Finished T2 at the PGA Championship in May
  • Winner of the 2010 Open Championship, his lone PGA TOUR title
  • Five top-10s in 15 starts during the 2020-21 season, including two runner-up results (P2/Zurich Classic of New Orleans with partner Charl Schwartzel, T2/PGA Championship)

Additional Player Notes

  • Brooks Koepka (2-under 69) extends his tournament-record streak of rounds in the 60s to six and ties Sam Snead for most consecutive sub-par rounds in tournament history (6)

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