Mother Nature Issues a Code Red on Day 1 at Newport C.C.

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jun 27, 2024 | Newport, R.I.

Mother Nature Issues a Code Red on Day 1 at Newport C.C.

Attention 2024 U.S. Senior Open competitors: Mother Nature offered up a nice blue light special for Thursday’s opening round at historic Newport Country Club.

Or maybe, given the half-inch of rain that was dropped overnight and partial break from the gusty winds off the adjacent Atlantic Ocean – at least during much of morning wave – it became more like a green-light special.

After three days of idyllic summer Rhode Island weather, featuring sunshine and breezes that brought Newport C.C. to the USGA’s championship standards – firm and fast conditions – the 156 competitors in this 44th iteration of the U.S. Senior Open were given the red-carpet treatment in terms of scoring.

Even when the sun broke from the clouds and the gusts picked up, the good scoring continued.

Led by the bogey-free, 7-under-par 63s from Hiroyuki Fujita, of Japan, and Australian lefty Richard Green, a total of 42 players broke par on the 6,954-yard layout that is hosting the USGA’s 1,001st championship. Interestingly enough, more competitors posted sub-70 scores in the afternoon (23) than the morning (19).

Thursday’s scoring average of 71.76 featured 42 sub-par scores, which matched a championship-high for a single round, previously attained in 2019 on the Warren Course at Notre Dame.

Local favorite Billy Andrade, from nearby Bristol, R.I., was one such player who managed his game in the windier afternoon conditions, carding a season-best, bogey-free 64, which included birdies on three of his first four holes. Canadian Stephen Ames, also in the afternoon wave and already a two-time winner this year on the PGA Tour Champions, enjoyed a bogey-free round of 65.

Past champions Steve Stricker (2019), Padraig Harrington (2022) and Jeff Maggert (2015), Craig Barlow, Bob Estes, Paul Broadhurst, Lee Westwood, 2023 British Senior Open champion Alex Cejka, plus qualifiers Matthew Goggin and David von Hoffmann are all three strokes back at 4-under-par.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen led a group at 3-under 67 that also included Justin Leonard, Stuart Appleby, Paul Stankowski, Rod Pampling and Phillip Archer. Those who shot 68 include two-time runner-up Jerry Kelly, Massachusetts native Fran Quinn, Doug Barron, Richard Bland and 70-year-old Jay Haas, who has never missed a cut in 17 previous U.S. Senior Open starts.  

Australian left-hander Richard Green needed only 24 putts in posting a 7-under 63 on Thursday at Newport Country Club. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Australian left-hander Richard Green needed only 24 putts in posting a 7-under 63 on Thursday at Newport Country Club. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Those who got an early start – Fujita and Green included – were given the most optimal of conditions. A light rain greeted the first groups off at 7 a.m. EDT and that morphed into sunshine and eventually some gusty winds by the time the afternoon wave commenced at 12:30 p.m. But the soft conditions remained, allowing for players to be aggressive.

“Thankfully, the wind direction was the same,” said Stricker, the runner-up the past two years. “But you could be a little more aggressive off the tees. You know it wasn't going to run out as far as what it's been doing. But into the greens, it was hard to control the spin. On some shots you knew it was just going to be coming back. That was the adjustment you had to make.”

Fujita, 55, who is competing in his second U.S. Senior Open after qualifying for five U.S. Opens, birdied three consecutive holes from No. 4 en route to a first-nine 30, and he would add two more birdies at 11 and 15 to finish one off the 18-hole championship scoring record. The owner of 18 Japan Golf Tour victories has claimed three on the Japan Senior Golf Tour, including the 2023 Japan Senior Open.

“Start was good. It was lucky for me,” said Fujita, whose last U.S. Open start was 2015. “I feel like it’s similar to Chambers Bay in U.S. Open.”

Green, 53, only hit 12 of 18 greens in his opening round, but scrambled exceptionally well, needing just 24 putts to match Fujita’s 63. This is also relatively new territory for the three-time European Tour (now DP World Tour) winner who only posted one top-10 finish in 20 major-championship starts (T-4 in 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie). Green qualified for the 2005 and 2006 U.S. Opens, finishing T-52 at Pinehurst and missing the cut at Winged Foot.

In his only two U.S. Senior Open starts, Green has finished outside the top 25 (T-27 last year at SentryWorld and T-49 in 2022 at Saucon Valley).

“Where I live in Melbourne, Australia, our conditions are very much the same,” said Green of Newport Country Club. “There's not a day in the year where it's not the blowing 25 [kilometers] an hour. Same sort of surface, the coastal environment. I'm actually used to playing in those conditions…The course suits my eye.” 

Buoyed by plenty of local support from friends, family and fans, Rhode Island's Billy Andrade delivered a 6-under 64 on Day 1 of the U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Buoyed by plenty of local support from friends, family and fans, Rhode Island's Billy Andrade delivered a 6-under 64 on Day 1 of the U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Andrade, who fell in love with Newport C.C. when he was starring in junior golf in the Ocean State, felt the strong support from family, friends and spectators. After his three early birdies, Andrade made a clutch 6-foot par putt on No. 6 to keep his early momentum, and after a birdie on No. 7, he added another up-and-down par on 13 to remain at 4 under. He closed with birdies on the par-5 16th and par-3 17th holes.

When he two-putted from 50 feet on 18, a loud applause went up from the fans remaining.

“When you go into these things, you don't want to embarrass yourself,” said Andrade, 60, who carded a 63 in the final round of the 2015 U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club. “You don't want to make a lot of bogeys and fight your game and all that stuff. I went out today, and I got off to a great start. Didn't make a bogey, made a couple birdies coming in. Just a great, unbelievable, awesome day on a course that I absolutely love. I loved it when I was a little boy, and I love it now.”

Ames, an eight-time winner on PGA Tour Champions but still seeking a major victory, got going over his final nine holes (Newport’s outward nine), coming home in 31 after a first-nine 34.

Late Wednesday, Cejka considered withdrawing with a pinched nerve in his back. Some ibuprofen and proper stretching eased the pain enough for him to join defending champion Bernhard Langer and reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Todd White in the traditional pairing. The 53-year-old from Germany by way of Czechoslovakia got to 6-under-par after a birdie on the par-3 fourth hole, but gave two back coming in.

Westwood, making his U.S. Senior Open debut, got out of the gate fast with an eagle on the par-5 first hole. The two-time U.S. Open runner-up then played 2-under-par golf over the next 17 holes. He’s coming off a tie for third in LIV Golf’s event in Nashville, Tenn., with the likes of reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2021 winner Jon Rahm.

Harrington arrived in Rhode Island fresh off his third consecutive title at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y. The big-hitting Irishman admittedly didn’t have his best ball-striking day, but still managed five birdies against just one bogey. Ditto for Stricker, whose only hiccup came on the par-4 10th hole. The Madison, Wis., native birdied three of his last five holes, including the par-4 18th.

What’s Next

All 156 competitors will play the second round on Friday, starting at 7 a.m. EDT off the first and 10th tees. Following play, the field will be cut to the low 60 scorers and ties for the final two rounds. Tickets for all three competition days are still available and can be purchased by clicking here. Golf Channel has the live broadcast from noon to 3 p.m. with Peacock taking over from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Alex Cejka battled through some back pain to post a 4-under 66 on Thursday at Newport Country Club. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

Alex Cejka battled through some back pain to post a 4-under 66 on Thursday at Newport Country Club. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)


  • Jeff Martin, 50, of Attleboro, Mass., who had the honor of hitting the opening tee shot of the championship, had quite a rooting section. Members of Wollaston Country Club, where he’s the head pro, all donned white hats with the words “WOLLY” inscribed on the front. Wollaston C.C. is where Tiger Woods won the second of his three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur titles in 1992. Woods also won the second of his three consecutive U.S. Amateurs at Newport C.C. in 1995. Martin shot an even-par 70.

  • Former Newport head professional Bill Harmon, he of the famous family of golfers, is serving as the caddie for Jay Haas. Harmon was employed by Newport in the 1990s. He is the son of Claude Harmon Sr., the only club professional to win the Masters Tournament (1948). Bill’s three brothers all grew up to be well-known instructors, including Butch, who has mentored many top tour players, including Woods, two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Justin Leonard and 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson.

  • Speaking of caddies, two-time U.S. Amateur runner-up Manny Zerman (1990 and ’91) is on the bag for his ex-college teammate and two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion David Berganio Jr. The two helped Arizona win the 1992 NCAA title, along with two-time USGA champion Jim Furyk, who captured the U.S. Open in 2003 and U.S. Senior Open in 2021. Zerman, originally from South Africa, was a high school teammate at University High in San Diego with Phil Mickelson, the man who defeated him in the 1990 U.S. Amateur final at Cherry Hills C.C.

  • Notah Begay III registered the first eagle of the championship, holing out with a 9-iron on the 404-yard, par-4 11th hole, his second of the round. Thongchai Jaidee followed with an eagle 2 on the 348-yard 12th hole, holing out from 78 yards with a lob wedge. Lee Westwood had a more conventional eagle, knocking a 3-wood from 268 to 10 feet on the 571-yard, par-5 first hole. In the afternoon wave, Brian Gay drove the green on the 330-yard second hole and converted a 35-footer. Joakim Haegman and Kirk Triplett also recorded eagles on Nos. 2 and 12, respectively.

  • Mark Strickland, who earned low-amateur honors a year ago at SentryWorld, had the low round among the 19 amateurs. His 1-over-par 71 was one stroke ahead of Scott Cornette, Trip Kuehne and Christian Raynor, the latter two of whom competed in the 1995 U.S. Amateur at Newport C.C.

  • Gary Koch, at 71 years, 6 months is the oldest qualifier in championship history, opened with a 3-over-par 73.

  • Defending champion Bernhard Langer, 4½ months removed from tearing his Achilles heel while playing pickle ball, carded an even-par 70.

  • Five bogey-free rounds were record in Round 1: Hiroyuki Fujita, Richard Green, Billy Andrade, Stephen Ames and Bob Estes.


“One of the best I've had really. I've had lower scores in my time, but from a feeling of how I feel on this golf course and the way I prepared and practiced and got my game into this shape…[I] can't ask for more.” – Richard Green

“Great start, but we got 54 holes to go. We've got a lot of golf to be played, and I know that. I've got to get a good night's sleep and get up tomorrow morning and go at it again.” – Billy Andrade

“I think we got the best of the day for sure. It was very, very good morning for scoring. I know myself, I had a very poor ball striking day…and had a very good scoring day. I don't think I can get away with my ball striking for the next three days if it's like that, but hope my scoring stays the same.” – Padraig Harrington

“Weather is getting a bit better in England so green conditions are a bit better and that makes me want to practice. That's basically it. Just that sharpens me up. Always played well and been sharper when I've not gone home and put the clubs away. It's a balancing act. I don't want to play all the time now and I can't play all the time. It's just not good for my body. I try and do what I can when I'm away from the golf course. I focus more on the gym work and staying flexible and strong. Injury prevention more than anything.” – Lee Westwood

“I can't control what the other wave did. I did my job in this wave, so I'm very pleased how I played.” – Craig Barlow after a 66 in the windier afternoon conditions

“It depends on luck of the draw. I played in the morning, no wind. It's so many factors. Obviously with good players, you can see it everywhere in the majors, like the longer the tournament, the better player comes always somehow through right under normal conditions. I obviously like four rounds. You can make ground up, but you can also lose ground in four rounds, so it's always a give and take.” – Alex Cejka

“It makes me feel very humble. Just going to come out and try to play each shot tomorrow and try not to think too much about that.” – qualifier and Texas club pro David von Hoffmann after shooting a 66.

“It's so much fun. This is one you check off on your calendar you want to be playing. Such an incredibly awesome venue. I mean, just an iconic venue that really presents better than you could even imagine. It's a wonderful place to play.” – Massachusetts native Fran Quinn on Newport C.C.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.