BROOKLINE, Mass. — Adam Hadwin wasn’t officially in the U.S. Open until eight days ago. He walked off The Country Club on Thursday with his best score ever in a major for a one-shot lead.
With the focus finally shifting away from Saudi-backed rival league LIV Golf Invitational Series, who’s going and who’s staying on the PGA Tour, Hadwin opened with a 4-under 66 on a breezy but not overly punishing day at Brookline.
Rory McIlroy didn’t make a bogey until his final hole and was among four players at 67. Callum Tarren of England, David Lingmerth of Sweden, MJ Daffue of South Africa and Joel Dahmen were the others.
At the opposite end was Phil Mickelson, who celebrated his 52nd birthday — on the golf course, anyway — with a four-putt double bogey on his way to a 78.
Hadwin ran off three straight birdies to finish the front nine in 31, and he dropped only one shot on the back nine for his 66. His previous low score in a major was 68 on three occasions, most recently the first round of the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park.
Even with a good start, it doesn’t figure to be easy for Hadwin or anyone else. The Country Club might be as accommodating as it gets all week, with moderate wind and cloud cover keeping the sun from making greens crispy and firm.
And the best anyone could do was a 66.
The group at 68 included two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Matt Fitzpatrick, who won the U.S. Amateur at Brookline in 2013.
No other major is more open — roughly half the 156-man field has to qualify — and it showed. Seven of the top 13 came through qualifiers, including Hadwin. He was first alternate out of the Dallas section and got in when Paul Casey withdrew because of an ailing back.
Dahmen debated whether to go a 36-hole qualifier 10 days ago in Ohio. The U.S. Open is hard and he had been beat up from travel and pedestrian results. Plus, it was supposed to rain. But he went anyway, and he qualified with one shot to spare.
Lingmerth was in the same qualifier and had to play 36 holes and then some because of a 5-for-1 playoff for the final spot. That went to Hayden Buckley — he was among those at 68 on Thursday — and Lingmerth was first alternate. He got in when Martin Kaymer withdrew.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.