ERIN, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Inspired by watching Rickie Fowler on TV tear up rain-softened Erin Hills in Thursday’s morning wave, England’s Paul Casey went out and fired an opening round six-under 66 to trail the American by one.
“I‘m a Rickie Fowler fan, and the golf he produced this morning was beautiful,” Casey told reporters.
“I was hoping and praying if I could get the same kind of conditions, and hoping and praying I would be half as good as Rickie Fowler. So to be right behind him, I‘m ecstatic.”
Casey was joined at 66 by 23-year-old American Xander Schauffele. One shot behind them were England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Americans Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman.
The Englishman said watching Fowler take apart the 7,845-yard links-style layout helped him read some of the putts, capitalise on hole locations and confirm the game plan he already had set up with his caddie.
“I’d like to think we learned a little bit and thank him for that this morning.”
Casey started his afternoon round with a bang, eagling the par-five first hole and adding a birdie at the second.
He made the turn at four-under 32 and ended the round with a flourish with a birdie at the par-five last.
“It was just a really fun round,” said Casey, who said he was far from perfect and made errors. “I don’t know that I’ve ever played a U.S. Open where I’ve had that much enjoyment.”
“I prefer a golf course where we can make some birdies, for sure,” Casey added after a record-setting first round that featured 44 scores under par, shattering the previous record 39.
“We’re all interested to see where the pin positions are going to be tomorrow and if there’s a knee jerk reaction.”
Casey said conditions could also be radically different for the second round.
“Just because we had the deluge yesterday and the days leading into this, it’s pretty benign and receptive,” he said. “It’s not going to last. If the sun shines and the wind blows, it’s going to dry out. It will be treacherous.”
Editing by Rory Carroll