UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — The closest comparison amateur Ollie Schniederjans could come up with for what he experienced in the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday was getting to play in the Scottish Open a year ago.
On that Saturday in Scotland, Schniederjans played at the same time as groups featuring Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson with big crowds all around.
That experience felt small compared to playing in the U.S. Open for the first time.
“It’s just big. Everything just feels big,” Schniederjans said. “The whole setting, it’s just a grand event. It feels like a big event.”
Schniederjans, who just wrapped up his career at Georgia Tech, was one of a few amateurs to make Chambers Bay feel small. Schniederjans birdied the 18th to finish at 1 under. He would have been the low amateur for the day if not for a surprising charge from Brian Campbell.
Starting on No. 10, Campbell went out in 31 (4 under). He was still at 4 under through 15 holes before taking a double bogey on No. 7. He rebounded with a birdie and par to finish off a round of 67 and tied for fourth place.
They were the only two amateurs to finish under par. Nick Hardy shot even par 70, while Denny McCarthy and Beau Hossler both finished at 1 over.
“I think the amateurs are just that good,” Schniederjans said.
DEFENDING CHAMP: It was a wild first day as the defending champion for Martin Kaymer, starting with six holes of inconsistency that left him at even par on his way to a 2 over 72 for the round.
It started benign with a par on the 10th hole, his first of the day, before a wild stretch. He bogeyed the 11th, made eagle on the drivable par-4 12th, followed up with a double bogey on No. 13, made par on the 14th and birdied the par-3 15th.
That stretch left Kaymer at even and he stayed there with seven consecutive pars before bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6 and three more pars to close out his round.
“We’ve played the golf course the last three days where you know what you are going to get,” Kaymer said. “The greens, they were not super fast this morning which was nice. They are not going to get super fast this afternoon because the sun is not out. Overall it was pretty much what we thought it was going to be.”
FOWLER FALTERS: So much for Rickie Fowler’s run of success in majors continuing.
After finishing in the top five of every major in 2014 and tied for 12th at this year’s Masters, Fowler shot himself out of contention on Thursday with an 11 over 81. It was the second worst score in the field, one worse than playing partner Tiger Woods and he only beat Rich Berberian Jr., who shot an 83.
It was the worst U.S. Open round of Fowler’s career. He shot 79 in the second round in 2008 at Torrey Pines.
That 81 came with Fowler making eagle and nearly a hole-in-one on the drivable par-4 12th hole. Fowler could not see his shot land, but it came to rest just inches from the cup.
“I mean, we’ll see what I can do tomorrow. You never know,” Fowler said. “Today, golf happened.”
HOMETOWN HIT: There were no nerves the last time Michael Putnam hit a notable first tee shot at Chambers Bay.
He was full of apprehension on Thursday, getting the tournament started with the opening tee shot.
“I was so nervous. I was pretty disappointed that they played that first tee shot as a par 4. Man, they give me (a) 150-yard fairway, it wouldn’t be so bad,” Putnam said. “Get to the course this morning, and play it as a par 4, and obviously it’s the hardest par 4 on the golf course. You have to hit that tee shot in the fairway to do anything, and I didn’t.”
The hometown kid who played the first competitive round ever at Chambers Bay eight years ago overcame those early jitters to finish with an even-par round of 70. Putnam capped his day with a birdie on No. 18 to get back to even.
Putnam was considered someone to watch because of his knowledge with the unfamiliar course in the Pacific Northwest. He played Chambers Bay around 30 times before tournament week arrived and his brother Joel, a caddie at Chambers Bay, was carrying his bag.
“I couldn’t believe how many people were here at 7 a.m. to watch both of us go off the first shot of the first tee. … It’s cool to see that support,” Putnam said.
SONIC YOUTH: Cole Hammer had a forgettable four-hole stretch during the first round, even if the entire experience is a memory he’ll cherish.
The 15-year-old from Houston, and third youngest player in U.S. Open history, opened the tournament with a 77. Starting on No. 10, Hammer managed his way through the first 11 holes at 2 over, before a run of trouble derailed his round. Hammer was 5 over on the next four holes, including a double bogey on the par-4 fifth hole.
Hammer rebounded with three straight pars to close the round, including an up-and-down from the sand on No. 9, his final hole of the day.
“It was awesome. I mean, I can’t even describe what I felt on the first tee,” Hammer said. “It was like nervous excitement. It was so cool.”