Photo: Jordan Niebrugge watches his tee shot on during the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. on Thursday, June 15, 2017. (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)
By Art Stricklin
ERIN, Wisconsin – Choctaw Oklahoma native, former Oklahoma State star, Talor Gooch was cruising along at 3-under-par after six holes at Erin Hills Golf Course Thursday morning, having just rolled in a 50-foot putt for birdie for the solo lead, then the U.S. Open happened.
With a bogey on the par 4 7th hole and back-to-back double bogeys on holes 11 and 12 it wiped out his promising start and led to his back nine 40 and 74 total in his first U.S. appearance on a windy and sunny opening day.
“I just missed two drives out there on the back nine and it bit me in the butt. Give me those two drives back and I’m right there,” he said.
With his promising start and tough finish, Gooch still finished at tied for 60th after the morning wave of golfers, with a better score than defending Open Champion Dustin Johnson and still well within the 36-hole cut line.
“If your not excited and quaking in your boots before your first US Open then there is something wrong, “ Gooch said, “but I got off to a good start and felt my game was good. I’m looking to another good round tomorrow.”
The low Oklahoma State golfer score in the all OSU threesome, the first to tee off on the day, belonged to Kevin Dougherty, who rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt on the par 5 18th hole to finish at one-under-par 71.
“Wow. Incredible,” Dougherty when his pull rolled in the hole.
Former OSU All-American Jordan Niebrugge shot an opening 73.
But Gooch, who has lived in the Sooner State almost his entire life, and knows about Oklahoma’s rich professional golf history, said it meant something to see his name at the top of the leaderboard for even a brief period of time.
“Everytime I’m at home in Oklahoma City and I have an off day, I’m over at Oak Tree working on my game. I’m a 405 guy and want to represent anywhere I go.”
He certainly did early under sunny skies with birdies par 4 second hole and par 4 fifth hole, making two putts of 10 feet each.
He left his tee shot on the par 3 sixth hole well short, but stepped up and rolled in the birdie bomb, igniting a huge roar from the fans encircling the green.
“That was nice,” Gooch said. “I will remember that one for a while.”
Gooch, 25, and Dougherty, 26, played all four years together at OSU after Dougherty redshirted his first year. Niebrugge, 23, played two years with the others making it like an OSU practice session in Wisconsin.
“Our coach text me before the start today and said just treat this like a qualifying round at Karsten Creek and that’s what we tried to do,” Gooch said. “We didn’t have a bet on low score, but one thing we have to do is wear more orange and black on Friday. We were lacking today, but you can count on that.”
As for the other OSU and OU players in the field, former Cowboy Rickie Fowler held the first-day lead at 7-under, while Alex Noren shot 1 over and Peter Uihlein was at 2 over. University of Oklahoma junior Brad Dalke shot 6 over in his U.S. Open debut.