Brooks Koepka is the two-time defending U.S. Open champion, but he and the rest of the field find themselves looking up at Justin Rose following Thursday's first round of the 2019 event at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California.
Rose birdied the final three holes to finish with a six-under 65 and put himself one stroke ahead of Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Louis Oosthuizen and Aaron Wise. It was tied for the lowest score for a U.S. Open round at the course.
The entire leaderboard can be found on the PGA Tour's official website.
Rose was playing in front of large galleries as part of Tiger Woods' group but remained unfazed down the stretch with the late birdies. He also tallied an eagle on No. 6 during his front nine, but it was the work of his putter that stood out the most in the closing push.
He buried medium-length birdie putts on Nos. 16 and 18, as well as a long one on No. 17, to put himself atop the leaderboard after a round. The final one helped him make history.
Elsewhere, all eyes were on Koepka entering the tournament after he won his fourth major since the start of the 2017 season at the PGA Championship in May. He became the two-time reigning champion at that event, and he's also the seventh golfer in history to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.
The No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking has been nothing short of a machine at recent majors and wasted little time sending a message at this one.
He birdied the first hole, birdied the third and then chipped in from off the green for another birdie on No. 5, making it appear as if he was well on his way to the top of the leaderboard. He wasn't able to keep up the birdies-in-three-of-every-five-holes pace, though, and bogeyed Nos. 8, 13 and 17 on his way to a two-under 69.
The attention Koepka drew was nothing new for Woods, who won the this year's Masters for his 15th career major. He is just three short of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major titles, although the memorable showing at Augusta National was the first for the 43-year-old since the 2008 U.S. Open.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Woods challenged for his 16th at the iconic Pebble Beach. His first of three U.S. Open championships came at the course in 2000, and his 15-stroke win is still the largest margin of victory in the tournament's history.
Woods also tied for fourth at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and appeared to pick up where he left off with three birdies in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 4-7. However, he sandwiched a double-bogey on No. 5 in between the birdies and parred every hole on the back nine for a one-under 70.
Well before Rose, Koepka and Woods made their moves, Fowler, Schauffele and Oosthuizen dueled in the early going.
Fowler's performance stands out considering he is still chasing his first major championship as one of the sport's marquee names. He displayed a steady consistency Thursday with a single bogey and six birdies, three of which came on the front nine and three of which came on the back.
"I felt like that was about the highest score I could have shot today," Fowler said, per Daniel Rapaport of Sports Illustrated. "Just happy with how stress-free and easy it was."
That he was so comfortable and confident he could improve his score as the tournament continues is a welcome sign. Rapaport noted he averaged a mere 72.33 in his only three PGA Tour rounds at Pebble Beach entering Thursday's play, so he seems to have figured something out at the famous course.
Fowler will need to continue taking advantage of his birdie opportunities while avoiding bogeys to keep up with the mighty Koepka and the rest of the field.
While he and Wise—who also had six birdies and a bogey—were the steady ones, Oosthuizen and Schauffele brought more dramatic flair with a chip-in from the bunker and an eagle on their last holes, respectively:
Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy finished with a three-under 68, Sergio Garcia posted a two-under 69, Jason Day tallied a one-under 70, Dustin Johnson shot an even-par 71 and Phil Mickelson turned in a one-over 72.
They are all one impressive round away from shooting up the leaderboard, but Rose will be waiting for them if Thursday was any indication.