SOUTHAMPTON (New York) • The plaguing wind left them digging sand out of their eyes and trying to hold on to their caps, and self-esteem. It grabbed at their shirts and their pantlegs.
It ballooned their scores and stripped away their vanity.
There were no real leaders after the first round of the US Open at Shinnecock Hills, just a small handful of weather-beaten survivors, four players who barely managed to break par, all at one-under 69.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson needed a break to be one of them - getting a free drop at the sixth hole, after a search for his ball on his hands and knees in the deep fescue because a TV announcer unwittingly stepped on it.
"Anything under par on this golf course is very good, especially in the conditions we have today," said Johnson, who was tied with England's Ian Poulter and Americans Russell Henley and Scott Piercy.
"I felt like, you know, from start to finish, it was very difficult."
The course played to an average score of just over 76, and the back nine to an ego-destroying 39. By the end of the day, there would be 836 bogeys.
Bogeys in the first round.
Scoring average in the first round.
"Come on Jordan, pick your head up! Pick your head up!" a spectator yelled at Jordan Spieth, as the 24-year-old went trudging by on his way to a 78.
Another spectator stared at the scores of Spieth's playing partners - Phil Mickelson, who shot 77, and 2011 US Open champion Rory McIlroy, an 80 - and said, "Bad, bad, and worse." It was McIlroy's worst-ever US Open round.
The ones who fared best were those who lowered their expectations, conceded their dignity, and found a way to limit the damage.
1ST ROUND (selected, USA unless stated)
69 Scott Piercy , Russell Henley , Dustin Johnson , Ian Poulter (Eng)
70 Jason Dufner
71 Henrik Stenson (Swe), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), An Byeong Hun (Kor), Justin Rose (Eng), Charles Howell III , Charley Hoffman , Sam Burns
72 Xander Schauffele, Alexander Noren (Swe)
73 Kim Si Woo (Kor), Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey (Eng),
74 Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman (Aus)
75 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Sergio García (Esp), Jimmy Walker , Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)
76 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
77 Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson
78 Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm (Esp), Adam Scott (Aus)
79 Jason Day (Aus), Li Haotong (Chn)
80 Rory McIlroy (Nir)
Poulter braced himself to accept a miserable round in a tournament he has made no secret of hating in the past - he once vowed never to play an Open again, despite his eight top-10 finishes in Majors.
"I haven't enjoyed many, to be honest," he said. "They're difficult. They're hot. They're stressful. Feels like you're pulling (out) teeth every single hole you play."
But he somehow found his way to his best start ever in an Open.
Piercy was similarly casual. On Wednesday, he had stalked off the course in frustration at his practice round.
He went back to his room and ordered a pizza and looked at some old pictures of himself, when he was swinging well. The result: a 69.
"I sort of started from the bottom, in my mind," he said. "Went home, pounded some pizza, and just had some fun hanging around the house. I just needed some time away... Golf's hard enough as it is, and then we're at the US Open."
Jason Day, a player with two PGA Tour wins this season, shot 79. Six Major champions shot higher than 78. There were mistakes of all kinds.
Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, three-putted on two greens en route to a 75, and he was hardly alone.
Bunker shots flew over greens with regularity. Most of all, approach shots bounced or trickled over greens and trundled 30 or 40 yards from the hole.
"The wind gusting 25 or 30 miles (48kmh) an hour didn't help," said Patrick Reed, this year's Masters champion, who shot a 73. "I mean, that affected everything."
Nobody suffered more than English qualifier Scott Gregory, who managed only three pars in a 92, the day's worst score by five strokes. Winds are forecast to abate but still blow strongly enough to ensure a stern test.
WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES, REUTERS
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