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US Open: Records tumble and hole-in-ones fall as Fowler and Schauffele lead breathless first round

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Two record-breakers, a pair of hole-in-ones, and a sea of low scores: Los Angeles Country Club served up a Hollywood blockbuster with a thrilling first round at the US Open on Thursday.

Rickie Fowler became the first golfer in the major’s 128-year history to shoot 62, only for American compatriot Xander Schauffele to match the feat and tie him for the tournament’s lowest single round score just 22 minutes later.

The duo, both chasing their first major titles, top the leaderboard at eight-under overall, two shots ahead of fellow American pair Dustin Johnson and Wyndham Clark.

LIV Golf’s Johnson made a strong start to his pursuit of a second US Open crown, while Clark – who missed the cut on both previous appearances at the major – opened with an eagle and closed with a birdie to keep pace with the former World No. 1.

Spectators who stayed planted at the 15th tee were rewarded with a pair of hole-in-ones, as France’s Matthieu Pavon hit the opening ace of the tournament on the 124-yard par-three before American Sam Burns followed suit.

The pair of hole-in-one’s highlighted a day of widespread low scoring, as birdies rained down around the North Course. Thursday’s 71.34 scoring average marked the lowest ever recorded in a first round at the US Open, beating the previous low of 72.29 at the 1993 tournament.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is the only non-American inside the top five, as he shot five-under 65 to end the day level with Brian Harman. The 2011 champion was on track to beat Fowler and Schauffele’s record after making the turn at five-under par but could only add one more birdie on the closing nine holes.

A loss of pace looked in danger of sliding into full-on reverse at the last hole when McIlroy’s attempt to escape the rough near the green went nowhere, but the four-time major winner recovered superbly to putt from 11 feet and escape with a bogey.

American quartet Bryson DeChambeau, Scottie Scheffler, Harris English and Sam Bennett join Korea’s Kim Si-woo and France’s Paul Barjon in the group bunched at three-under overall.

Going low

Schauffele and Fowler’s historic rounds saw the duo join Branden Grace as the only players to shoot 62 at a men’s major championship.

The South African had stood alone since his record-breaking third round at the 2017 Open Championship, though the American pair will be hoping their record-breaking rounds ends better than Grace’s eventual tied-sixth finish.

Fowler’s 10 birdies marked the most ever recorded in a US Open round. Schauffele, who went bogey-free, attributed the low scores to an abundance of moisture in the greens.

“I think it made the greens that more holeable speed, and then coming into greens you’re able to pull some wedges back,” he told reporters.

“Then the fairways are a little bit softer, too, because of that overcast, and without the sun out it’s not drying out much. I think fairways are easier to hit and greens are a little bit softer.

“I’m anticipating the sun to come out just as much as every West Coast person out here … you just wait until this place firms up. It’s going to be nasty.”

Schauffele’s observations were echoed by Scottie Scheffler, who trails the leading duo by five at three-under. Like his compatriot, the World No. 1 expects scores to rise heading into the weekend.

“I joked a bit earlier, I think the USGA will be a bit frustrated that the number was that low today,” Scheffler told reporters.

“It’s one of those golf courses where I think if you can pick up some momentum and capitalize on some really difficult holes all of a sudden it starts to open up and you see those easier holes.”

Ace duo

The 15th tee was the place to be for crowds, as Pavon and Burns sent nearby stands wild with their respective aces.

There were empathic celebrations from both players after the first hole-in-ones of their PGA Tour careers, Pavon taking off his cap to salute the fans and Burns launching his club skyward.

“Sharing this with the crowd today was just a moment I would never forget,” Pavon told reporters.

“it was just an unbelievable feeling. I’m just seeing now how I reacted because I didn’t know I was that emotional. Things happen and I can’t remember what I did at that moment.”

World No. 173 Pavon ended the day one-over par, two shots behind Burns, who is seeking to add a first major title to his five PGA Tour victories.

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