SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. There will be no 63ers in this US Open. The winning score will not be 16 under par. Which, whether they admit it or not, is a relief for USGA officials.
As long as Erin Hills. Welcome back Shinnecock-windy, brutal Shinnecock
"We're not really thinking about scoring," said Mike Davis, CEO of USGA on Wednesday. "We only care about how the golf course plays."
Shinnecock Hills played hard on Thursday. Really hard.
Morning Wave's glamor group – Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson, winners of 12 majors – joined 25 over par . Mickelson's 77 made him a low man in threes.
All three of the world's media friendliest players in the world refused to answer questions from the media when their five-hour-plus nightmare finally ended.
They were probably too tired to talk.
"It's brutal out there, just brutal," said Charles Howell III, who was one of the low-finishers of the morning with an over-par 71. It's extremely difficult at this golf course, but the USGA did a great job today, tough as it was, the setup was fair, they did not let the greens get too fast, I was a bit nervous when I started When I saw the wind, but they did not let the greens go too fast, and that gave us a chance. "
Howell is one of the nine survivors of the notorious Sunday finale here in 2004, who play this week. He was one of 28 players who did not break 80 on that day and made 83 shots.
"I still have scar tissue," Howell said. "It was nice to get another crack in this place and play a lot better."
Many players will want to crack this place again after this Thursday. Or, maybe not.
"It was exhausting out there," said Bill Haas, who shot 76. "Nothing unfair, only that if you made a mistake, you paid for it – what you expect in a US Open."
The latest stats of the day give an overview of the carnage. The daily average was just 76.1 points north, with only four players in red, matching the 69's for Scott Piercy and Ian Poulter in the morning, Dustin Johnson and Russell Henley in the afternoon.
After the 2004 debacle, USGA officials were very cautious about green speeds. Shinnecock's greens are always solid, and they're also pretty slopely. Knowing that and what the weather forecast was for Thursday – and probably the rest of the week – Davis understood that USGA's unofficial motto "firm and fast forever" had to be adjusted to "fast and fairly fast". for now.
McIlroy, who just could not find a fairway all day (hit three of 14 fairways), said earlier in the week that Davis had told him that the greens would likely not be faster than 12 on the stimpmeter. That was obviously the case, though many players said that judging the speed of the greens was difficult.
"You go uphill into the wind, you really have to hit it," said Patrick Reed, the Masters champion, who was a respectable 73, but declared himself unhappy with his lap. "Then, if you bring it downhill with the wind, you can do it even better, but you really should be very, very careful."
RELATED: No one wants to see the USGA cross the line in Shinnecock, but where is "the line" anyway
Careful was the word many players used to describe how they had to play – and how the USGA has to approach the rest of the week.
"It was near the top when it came to playing in a hard wind," Poulter said. "This course would be difficult without wind, if it blows, well, that's really hard."
Or, as Reed put it, "When the wind blows, 20 to 25 miles per hour with gusts, who knows what, If you're not there, you're in trouble. "
Piercys 69 was not so surprising as he finished second in Oakmont two years ago and is considered one of the best ball-throwers in the world. What was surprising was how well he played since he was so disgusted on Wednesday that he got off course after four holes. He went home and studied some of his better past swing on Instagram and came out today in hopes of recovery. He understood.
Perhaps the most amazing day was the numerous meltdowns in the Mickelson-Spieth-McIlroy group. Spieth started with a three-putt bogey on No. 10 and followed him with a one-putt triple bogey on par-3 11.
McIlroy made three 6s during a four-hole stretch on the back nine double bogeying 13 and 14 and then bogeying the par 5 16. On the 14th, his ride found the deep rough and his second shot moved about two feet when he tried it out to dig out the tall grass. By the time he finished nine holes, he had shot a seven-over-42. He launched the front nine with another double bogey 6 and was 10 over par by 11 holes before "rallying" to actually get heed over before two late bogeys destroyed his chances to break 80 – that's what he shot.
Mickelson managed to avoid big numbers, but made eight bogeys and only one birdie all day.
Afternoon Johnson tent group Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas fared better, but not without his stumbling block. In his first US Open since 2015, Woods started with a triple bogey 7 on the first hole and battled the rear nine to shoot a 78, while Thomas hit a frustrating 74, despite hitting 12 of 14 fairways.
"You know, there's nothing unfair on the course," said Harold Varner, who scored a nine-over-par 79. "If you keep it on the fairway, you can score, if you do not I just hit too many balls in the rough, the two guys I played with kept them on the fairway and watched them hit. "
Varner's partner in the first group were Piercy and Matthew Pavon, who scored 71.
Someone asked Varner if he would play hard work on Thursday. He laughed. "Hard work?" He said. "I play golf The volunteers who were looking for my golf ball were the ones who worked hard."
Poulter's 69 was a bigger surprise than Piercy's given his US Open record . He has been in the tournament 12 times and his best result was a T-12 in 2008 and he has not played in an open since 2015 when he finished T-54 at Chambers Bay.
"Nice to have a good start in a US Open given my record here," he said. "But it's a lap, it's a long, long way."
Piercy knows that too, but just being here is a big deal for him. He did not officially know until Sunday night that he was in this event and had to wait to see if alternative space would be released from Sectional Qualifying, as the USGA will always reserve additional seats for players who are in the top 60 in the world rankings the last week before the championship.
Three points remained open, and Piercy officially received the call Sunday night, in which he was.
"I had watched during the week [of the rankings]," he said. "So somehow I unofficially knew that I was coming in."
Piercy said the best he has ever met in his life was in Oakmont when he finished second to Jim Furyk behind Dustin Johnson. Like everyone else on the field, he knows that he has to be at least as good after Thursday to finish Sunday night.
WATCH: GOLF DIGEST VIDEOS