ERIN, Wis. – Paul Casey began his round with an eagle on Thursday at the U.S. Open, added a birdie at the second and narrowly missed going 4 under through three holes on his way to a round he called “truly fun.”
He described Erin Hills as “benign” for Round 1 and moved into a share of second place with a birdie at the 18th hole for a 6-under 66 that left him a stroke behind Rickie Fowler. He then offered a foreboding forecast.
“It’s not going to last,” he smiled. “We’re all interested to see where the pin positions are going to be tomorrow and if there’s a knee-jerk reaction.”
Casey has played in enough U.S. Opens to know that Thursday’s conditions are not the norm and the field for the 117th edition shouldn’t get used to the softer side of the championship, which is why he made the most of the opportunity.
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The Englishman chipped in from 32 yards at the first for eagle and converted from 4 feet to begin his day at what was an entirely different U.S. Open.
“From a setup I prefer this. From an architectural point of view, it doesn’t bother me but I prefer a golf course where we can make some birdies for sure,” he said.
Casey’s round was a bit of a surprise considering his abbreviated preparation, he played just a single 18-hole practice round and walked the course a second time, and how difficult could have played had overnight rains not softened the greens.
“I would have snapped your arm off for a 6 under,” he said. “I watched Rickie this morning. I was hoping and praying if I could get the same kind of conditions and hoping and praying I would be half as good as Rickie Fowler.”
This is the 170th major championship round of Casey’s career and the first time he’s posted a round lower than 5 under.