Pebble Beach: Justin Rose roared home with three straight birdies to match Tiger Woods’ record for the lowest US Open round ever shot at Pebble Beach, a six-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead after the first round on Thursday.
England’s Rose, who won the 2013 US Open at Merion, vaulted over a quartet of players sharing second on five-under 66 as Pebble Beach showed a welcoming face in cool and overcast conditions with little wind.
Americans Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Aaron Wise were in the clubhouse on 66 when Rose stormed home.
“It was amazing,” said Rose, who rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at the 16th and drained a 26-footer for birdie at the par-three 17th.
He took sole possession of the lead at the last, blasting out of a greenside bunker and draining an 11-foot birdie putt.
Rose wasn’t getting too carried away, calling it a “very small step towards an outcome”.
Knowing he had equalled the 65 shot by Woods in the first round on the way to his crushing 15-shot US Open triumph at Pebble Beach in 2000, Rose gave a restrained fist pump.
“I was thinking, ‘This would be kind of cool doing it front of the great man himself,’” said Rose, who played alongside Woods and Jordan Spieth.
Woods produced an outstanding performance on the greens as he scrambled to a one-under 70.
Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka headed a group on two-under 69.
Scott Piercy teed off before 7am and quickly showed that Pebble Beach was there for the taking, moving as low as five-under before finishing on four-under 67.
He was joined there in a tie for sixth by fellow American Nate Lashley.
Reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy were among a group of eight players on three-under 68.
That group also included Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who climbed the leaderboard with four straight birdies coming in, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, and Americans Sepp Straka, Gary Woodland, Chez Reavie and Chesson Hadley.
After the US Golf Association was stung by criticism over course conditions at last year’s US Open at wind-dried Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach’s small, slanting greens were moist and receptive.
Afternoon starter Koepka, who can become just the second player to win three straight US Opens and the first in more than a century, applied pressure on the leaders as he raced to four-under through six holes. He followed a bogey at eight with a birdie at 12, but was three-under after a bogey at 13 and dropped a shot from a greenside bunker at the par-three 17th.
His tee shot at 18 found an asphalt cart path, but he hit his second shot off the deck on the way to a par, missing a four-foot birdie putt at 18.
Woods, who captured his 15th major title at the Masters in April to cement his return in the wake of spinal fusion surgery, followed his first birdie at the fourth with a double-bogey at the par-three fifth, where his tee shot bounced off a cart path into deep rough.
He rebounded with back-to-back birdies, then parred his last 11 holes.
He drained a 30-footer to save par at the 14th after his second shot landed in dense rough. He needed just 25 putts on the round.
Leading scores (after 18 holes): 65: Justin Rose (ENG); 66: Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Rickie Fowler (USA), Xander Schauffele (USA), Aaron Wise (USA); 67: Scott Piercy (USA), Nate Lashley (USA); 68: Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Sepp Straka (AUT), Francesco Molinari (ITA), Henrik Stenson (SWE), Gary Woodland (USA), Chez Reavie (USA), Chesson Hadley (USA), Rory McIlroy (NIR).