BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS — Adam Hadwin can be forgiven for taking a breather during the first round of the US Open, golf’s ostensibly toughest test.
Hadwin was back in Canada for his own national open last week, which was even more significant because the pandemic had forced the cancellation of the Canadian Open the previous two years, and the golf-crazed fans brought a lot of enthusiasm.
Plus, he’s been spared the incessant conjecture and discussion about the Saudi-backed alternative league that has dominated The Country Club all week.
It’s little surprise that he finished Thursday with a 4-under 66, his best score in 63 major championship rounds, and a one-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and four other players who scored 67: CallumTarren of England, David Lingmerth of Sweden, MJ Daffue of South Africa, and Joel Dahmen.
“It’s nice to be down here and recover for a couple of days before starting the week,” Hadwin added. “The golf course doesn’t get any easier. But, yes, it did feel a touch more laid-back than last week in several areas.”
Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, celebrated his 52nd birthday — on the golf course, at least — with a four-putt double bogey en route to a 78.
Hadwin made three straight birdies on the front nine to finish in 31, and he only dropped one stroke on the back nine to finish with a 66. He has previously shot 68 in three majors, the most recent being the first round of the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park.
It’s not going to be easy for Hadwin or anyone else, even if they get off to a strong start. With mild breeze and cloud cover stopping the sun from turning the greens crispy and stiff, the Country Club may have been as accommodating as it gets all week.
And the best score anyone got was a 66.
Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Matt Fitzpatrick, who won the US Amateur at Brookline in 2013, were among the 68 players.
No other major is as wide-open as this one, with approximately half of the 156-man field having to qualify, and it shows. Hadwin was one of seven top-13 finishers that came through qualifying. He was the first alternate out of the Dallas section, and he was able to go in after Paul Casey withdrew due to a back injury.