PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — While Justin Rose joined Tiger Woods in the U.S. Open record book at Pebble Beach, Scottsbluff native Nate Lashley wasn’t far behind.
In a gentle start to the toughest test in golf, Rose birdied his last three holes Thursday for a 6-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead on a day so accommodating that 39 players broke par.
Lashley, at 36 playing in his first U.S. Open, had a bogey-free 67 to be in a sixth-place tie before he tees off first in Friday’s second round.
“It couldn’t have went much better, to be honest with you,’’ Lashley said. “I hit the ball great. I made some putts when I needed to. Just a really solid round. I felt comfortable. I really like Pebble Beach. It’s great being here.”
The 2005 Arizona graduate is 141st in FedEx Cup points this season, making $455,431 in 13 starts. He was a tour rookie last year, when he had minor knee surgery midyear. He played the Web.com Tour’s Pinnacle Bank Championship at Indian Creek on a rehab start, missing the cut.
He got into the U.S. Open by winning a playoff in sectional qualifying in Canada last week.
“Emotions-wise, today was pretty relaxing on the course. It was nice. Just played some golf,’’ he said. “Like I said, I really like being here at Pebble. You can’t beat this place. And I feel comfortable on the course now. I’ve played it enough.”
It was an ideal start for Rose and for the USGA, which wants a smooth ride after four years of various mishaps in the U.S. Open. The idea was to start safe and make the course progressively more difficult, and a forecast of dry weather for the week should make that easier to control.
This was the day to take advantage, especially with a cool, overcast sky for most of the day.
Rose knew what was at stake when he blasted out of a bunker short of the par-5 18th to about 12 feet. He was watching the telecast earlier when Rickie Fowler had a birdie putt for a 65 to tie the lowest U.S. Open round at Pebble Beach, set by Woods in the first round of his record-setting victory in 2000.
“I was thinking, ‘This would be kind of cool doing it in front of the great man himself,’” said Rose, who is paired with Woods for the first two rounds.
He lightly pumped his fist, partly for the record, mainly for the best start.
Fowler settled for a 66, tied with Aaron Wise and two others who had big finishes. Xander Schauffele caught a break when his tee shot on the 18th caromed off the rock edge left of the fairway, setting up a 12-foot eagle. Louis Oosthuizen finished on No. 9 by holing a bunker shot for a birdie. It felt almost as good as the wedge he holed from 95 yards for eagle on No. 11.
Woods took advantage of the scoring holes with three birdies, but there was one blunder — a tee shot he hooked on the par-3 fifth that smacked off the cart path into gnarly, deep grass some 20 yards behind the edge of the bleachers. He blasted that out beyond the green and made double bogey.
After two straight birdies, he finished with 11 straight pars for a 70.
“Pebble Beach, you have the first seven to get it going, and after that it’s a fight,” Woods said. “I proved that today. I was trying to just hang in there today. Rosey proved the golf course could be had.”
Brooks Koepka proved the opening holes could be had. He was 4-under with his birdie on the par-5 sixth and appeared to be on another major mission until a few errant tee shots into nasty rough, a few missed putts and a few bogeys. Even so, he had few complaints about his 69 to begin his bid for a record-tying third straight U.S. Open.
“I didn’t shoot myself out of it,” Koepka said. “I’m right there. I feel like if I get off tomorrow to a good start, I’m right back into it.”
Phil Mickelson, at 49 in another U.S. Open quest to complete the career Grand Slam, didn’t feel he was out of it either, despite only two birdies in his round of 1-over 72, which included a 22-inch par putt that he missed.
No one was expecting a breeze the rest of the week.
“It’s a very soft start to a U.S. Open, which is a good thing,” Rory McIlroy said after a 68, his first sub-70 round at the U.S. Open since he won at Congressional in 2011. “They can do whatever they want with it from here. It’s not as if you’re starting with a course that’s in the condition like a Sunday, and then you get three days and it sort of starts to get away from you.”
The World-Herald News Service contributed to this report.