My game’s in a good place, my head’s in a good place. My expectations are to enjoy the experience and hopefully I’ll continue to play well. —Tony Finau
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — For Utahns Tony Finau and Daniel Summerhays, the opening round of the U.S. Open couldn’t have gone much better Thursday afternoon at Chambers Bay Golf Course.
Finau, a rookie on the PGA Tour playing in his first U.S. Open, fired a 1-under-par 69 and stands in a tie for 14th place, four shots behind co-leaders Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson.
Meanwhile, Summerhays, who is playing in his third major and second U.S. Open, came in with an even-par 70 and stands in a tie for 26th place.
Both players are in good position to make the 36-hole cut with similar scores in Friday’s second round when both will go off in the more coveted morning tee times (8:44 a.m. MT for Finau, 9:06 MT for Summerhays).
Finau started slowly but went 5-under par in a five-hole stretch in the middle of the round to briefly put himself on the leaderboard at 3-under par. But he made three bogeys, at 13, 15 and 17 when he was playing into the wind, before finishing with a birdie at 18.
“I think it was a pretty respectable round,’’ Finau said. “Once we got on the golf course I was able to control my nerves a little better with a with a golf club in my hands. I was a little excited and anxious getting ready for the week. After the first tee, it was just golf.''
Finau started off slowly, making a bogey at 4 when he hit in a bunker and at 6 when he missed the green and couldn’t get up and down.
But he turned things around at No. 7 when he rolled in a 30-foot uphill putt for birdie and followed it with another birdie at No. 9 when he hit a 9-iron within three feet and sank the putt to make the turn at even.
Then on the back nine he got cranking and went birdie-eagle at the 11th and 12th holes.
He then made bogeys at 13, 15 and 17 before two-putting the large undulating 18th green from 30 feet, capping the round with an 8-footer for birdie.
“That was huge,’’ he said of his final birdie. “I left the first one short and thought it was going to come back (down the hill). It was a nice putt for birdie.’’
Finau had a loyal following of about 40 relatives, some from the Northwest and others from Utah.
Summerhays had a similar round to Finau’s, shooting over par on the front nine (1 over) with bogeys at 1 and 9 with a birdie at No. 6.
On the back nine he made birdies at 12 and 13 to get under par for the day, before falling back to even par with a bogey at 14.
He felt good about his finish at 18, as he made par after hitting into a bunker with his drive, hitting a short shot into another bunker before hitting two wedges to within 10 feet from where he made par.
“I hit a lot of really nice shots today,’’ Summerhays said after spending a half hour on the range after his round. “I was in the rough a couple of times, but never really out of position and never in too much trouble. Overall it feels pretty good. I feel I can go out and get some more good birdie looks tomorrow morning with slightly smoother greens and be in good position going into the weekend.’’
Summerhays had a few friends and family members following him while Finau had a large contingent of fans that often yelled out his name and cheered loudly after good shots.
Finau’s father Kelepi followed his son from a distance, pushing a baby stroller with Tony’s two-month old son, Tony Jr., and accompanied by one of Tony’s nieces. Finau's wife was also on the course, but his two other children were left with daycare.
Finau called the course “different than anything I’ve ever played, but it’s fair’’ and said he’s feeling good about the rest of the week.
“My game’s in a good place, my head’s in a good place,’’ he said. “My expectations are to enjoy the experience and hopefully I’ll continue to play well.’’