Mixing respect for a difficult US Open layout with the need to chase birdie chances, Justin Thomas put himself in early position to capture his second major golf title.
The 27-year-old American fired a five-under par 65 to jump ahead early in Thursday’s first round of the US Open at Winged Foot.
“It was a good day for me from the start,” Thomas said. “I’ve just played really, really solidly. Hit a lot of really quality tee shots. Only had a few squirrely ones. The few greens I missed, I hit great bunker shots to give myself good par chances.
“For the most part, it was all just right in front of me. At that point, it was just about executing and hitting the shots and making the putts.”
Thomas impressed himself with how well he did those things.
“It’s one of the best rounds I’ve played in a while tee to green,” Thomas said. “There are a couple things here and there that definitely could have been better, but I made sure all of my misses were in the right spot and that’s what you have to do at a US Open.”
Thomas was the 2017 PGA Championship winner but hasn’t managed another top-five major finish.
He expected receptive morning greens and some birdie chances despite the formidable nature of Winged Foot with dense rough and hard-to-hold fairways.
But Thomas was determined to make the most of his chances and a birdie run from the ninth through 11th holes sparked his round, which closed with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 18th.
“It’s still Winged Foot. You’ve still got to hit the shots,” Thomas said. “That was my game plan going into the week. Yeah, I need to respect the course, but if I’m driving it well and playing well, I do need to try to make some birdies and that’s exactly what we did.”
Now the challenge facing Thomas is to keep his score in perspective.
“Yeah, 65 is fun no matter where you play, especially at Winged Foot,” he said. “I was in a really good frame of mind, and I was focused. I just was sticking to my routine and playing every shot, as opposed to getting ahead of myself.
“It’s not even remotely close to being over. As great of a round and fun as it was, it’s over with now, and I need to get over it because I got 54 more holes to try to play well and shoot some good scores.”