Two-time winner Brooks Koepka set a milestone for defending champion Bryson DeChambeau as he twice finished behind Russell Henley’s clubhouse in the US Open first round at Torrey Pines.
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton finished the day one point behind, with American Henley three strokes ahead.
Phil Mickelson’s slow start, chasing the Grand Slam, saw him finish in four.
Mickelson, 51, became the oldest major winner when he won his second US PGA Championship in May and is looking to add the US Open title to his collection again, having finished second on six occasions.
Italian Francesco Molinari and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello lead European hopes with three under par.
The start of the game was delayed by 90 minutes as fog settled on the course atop the San Diego cliff top, but when the skies cleared conditions were favorable for beginners.
Those who start later have stronger winds to contend with and may not be able to complete their turn until the light is lost.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and world number one Dustin Johnson are among the late starters.
Koepka takes control
The row between Koepka and DeChambeau seemed to have reached a climax in recent weeks when the former posted a video on social media offering free beer to fans who were kicked out of an event for heckling it.
DeChambeau’s tactic of mastering a typically tricky US Open course worked when he won the title in 2020 and he vowed to “bomb and dig” his way around Torrey Pines.
Koepka appeared to be in control of the course after starting his round on the 10th hole and took the lead solo with his fourth birdie of the day on the second – his 11th hole.
But the two-time PGA Championship winner collapsed somewhat with bogeys in the third and seventh, before ending with two starts to get a 69 under two.
Mickelson started slower and struggled to find the fairway, bogeying three of his first six holes, and a birdie on his eighth hole didn’t do much to repair the damage with two more bogeys before he don’t come home.
If the southpaw changes things, he will only be the sixth man to win all four of the men’s majors and his victory in May has given fans cause for hope as he plays his 30th US Open.
American Henley’s day improved dramatically after his opening bogey, with back-to-back birdies on the seventh and eighth with a bogey on the 12th, the only scourge on a returning nine in which he won three birdies.
The 32-year-old’s best player in seven previous US Open appearances was tied for 16th in 2010.
San Diego native Xander Sc Chaudele, who has finished no lower than sixth in his previous four US Opens, rounded out the US contingent towards the top of the standings, with a 69, tied with the Canadian. Adam Hadwin.
Europeans are making their mark
In a tournament historically dominated by the Americans, several Europeans made a promising start.
Francesco Molinari – the 2018 Open champion – did a late charge with birdies on the 16th and 18th, while his brother Edoardo had a 70 under par.
The tour was made more special by the fact that the Molinaris were reunited this week for the first time in 18 months, after being separated due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We text and talk quite often,” Francesco said. “But obviously it’s not the same, especially after so long. It’s definitely the first time we’ve been apart for so long, it’s so nice to see it.”
Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello’s round came to life with an eagle on his ninth hole and he scored a 68.
Fitzpatrick may be frustrated that he ended his turn on a buggy, but the 26-year-old’s turn of 70 puts him in the running.
His compatriot Hatton also ended his day tied for seventh after a mixed bag of four birdies and three bogeys saw him finish in the red.
After claiming a first moving victory on the European Tour on his 71st attempt earlier in June, England’s Marcus Armitage brought his good form to Torrey Pines.
The 33-year-old finished the first day of his US Open debut on a level par after birdie and bogey on each half of the course.
“The [European Tour] winning gives you confidence, but you just ignore it right away and think ‘let’s see if I can play major now,’ “said Armitage.
Tommy Fleetwood birdied three of the first nine but blundered after the turn and a double bogey on his 14th hole contributed to a par 72.
Irishman Shane Lowry did better with a triple bogey on the fourth hole, but the 2019 Open winner fought back to finish alongside Fleetwood on just one.