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From sleepless nights to near-albatrosses: What it's like teeing up in your first U.S. Open

From sleepless nights to near-albatrosses: What it's like teeing up in your first U.S. Open

From nerves on the first tee and a sleepless night to the reality of playing the opening round at The Los Angeles Country Club, five DP World Tour debutants explain what it's like to play - and how they played - in their first U.S. Open.

Alejandro del rey r1 us open

Teeing up in your first U.S. Open comes with an understandable amount of pressure.

Some level of anxiety is to be expected when you are making your debut on the biggest stage in a tournament that is renowned for being an exacting test for the world's best professionals.

For some that's going over all-consuming thoughts about shots the night before, for others it's standing over that first tee shot. And for a nerveless few, it may not be any of those at all, but an excitement or a feeling of gratitude for a day, or a moment you've been hoping to achieve in your career.

When we spoke to five DP World Tour debutants after their opening rounds at The Los Angeles Club, they explained the feeling of hitting that first shot, if they slept well or not, and how they reflected on a landmark day in their career.

A day after teeing up in a practice round with Jon Rahm, Alejandro Del Rey stole a share of the headlines of a historic opening round at the U.S. Open.

While Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele achieved U.S. Open history with a pair of eight-under 62s, which are the second and third ever recorded in a Major Championship, Del Rey was causing his own stir with a near hole-in-one at the short par four sixth and the only eagle of the day on that hole.

The Spaniard said he felt more prepared to tee up in his first Major Championship than he was nervous, and despite a somewhat slow start, he bounced back and delighted the crowds with some of his aggressive play.

"I slept well," said Del Rey, who posted a two under par 68 and currently sits in a tie for 14th.

"I had been practicing the last couple of days. I just felt prepared and ready to get out there. I was very happy with the round. Apart from a couple of three-putts early on, apart from that I played great.

"I had a sloppy start and didn’t play great the first couple of holes but then had a great bounce back on the sixth hole. I hit a 3-wood to 2ft for eagle. I knew it was a great line and I was just asking it to carry the front bunker."

The second-longest hitter on the DP World Tour said it's a strategy he's going to continue to employ over the rest of the week.

“I think I will go for the green every day," he added "The big number comes from laying up and missing the second shot. I think when you get in trouble off the tee, you hit it where you might hit your second shot with your lay-up. A drive, at worst, has you chipping out onto or beside the green and two putting.

“I go on feel. I don’t read too much into the data if I am honest. Since the first day I saw it, I felt I was going to go for it. I go for more on instinct."

Deon Germishuys, who came out on top of the U.S. Open Qualifying at Walton Heath, was on the other end of the scales when it came to pre-round emotions.

The South African hit the second tee shot of the morning in the first group off at 6.45am local time on Thursday, and the combination of nerves and a dream come true made for a sleepless night.

" I woke up every hour thinking about every tee shot I was going to hit today," he said.

“I was obviously quite nervous on the 1st tee. It was a great feeling - nice to be here. It’s a dream come true to be here.”

His opening round of 72 leaves him at two over par for the tournament and currently one shot out of the projected cut line, but it was still filled with some great moments. Two birdies and four bogeys included a brilliant approach to the par-three 15th, and the South African described the entire day as different to anything he has ever experienced.

“Obviously I didn’t play too well but I felt like I kept it together nicely," he reflected.

“I felt like this was different to anything else I have felt in my career so far. I can definitely learn from it.”

Deon Germishuys

Also entering his opening round with a slither of apprehension was Sweden's Simon Forsström, who waited 14 years for his Major Championship debut.

His start is the prize of a breakthrough 12 months that saw him win Qualifying School on his 11th attempt in November, earn his first DP World Tour title in May, and gain a spot into the U.S. Open through the DP World Tour U.S. Open Qualification Series last month.

Yet despite some first tee nerves, he began his day with a par, and finished with a one-over par 71 that included three birdies and four bogeys.

His round, which he classed as 'OK', was highlighted with a lengthy birdie putt at the 15th but could have been better if not for a few errors that included a three-putt bogey at the second and a mistake that left him taking two shots to get out of a bunker at the 17th.

“I was a bit a bit nervous on hole number one but after that absolutely fine," he reflected.

"It’s very cool to play a major and this one being my first and the toughest is cool. I played OK. I made some silly bogeys which ruined the score.“

Thriston Lawrence, who makes his third Major start this week, echoed Forsström when he talked about that feeling of standing on the first tee.

"There are obviously some nerves on the first drive," he agreed.

Lawrence, who stormed to a first DP World Tour victory at the end of 2021, has had a transformative couple of years for his career. His victory at the Joburg Open earned him a Tour card, and since then he has gone on to win two more times, and make the cut in his first two Major appearances - the 2022 US PGA Championship, and the 2022 Open Championship.

Competing at the top level and with experience behind him, Lawrence said there is a level of ease now for him in events of these nature as he gets more and more used to it.

That was helped, he admits, by a good day on the course. He opened up his round with a birdie at the first, holed a chip for birdie from the testy green-side rough at the par-five eighth, and added two more gains throughout the day - one at 13 and one at the final hole of the day. Bogeys at five, seven and a double-bogey at the 14th meant he signed for a level par 70, and Lawrence was happy to take the positives of his first U.S. Open round.

"I slept fine. It’s my third major so I am kind of getting used to it," he said.

"I played really well. Tee to green was great. I made a double on 14 after a bad break getting plugged. It’s not the easiest finish with it being the longest finish in US Open history so I was happy to birdie 18."

In another of the early morning groups was Jens Dantorp, who said his struggle off the tee was nothing to do with nerves or an early start.

A three-time winner on the European Challenge Tour, Dantorp had played in one previous Major Championship - The Open at Royal Birkdale in 2018, where he missed the cut.

But with experience already on the biggest stage, he was keen to enjoy the experience.

"It was a 4.30am alarm," said Dantorp, who was another player to come through qualifying at Walton Heath last month.

"I didn’t feel much nerves - I just enjoyed it. I was struggling off the tee from the start."

His round got off to a shaky start, beginning on the back-nine and making the turn a five over par. Things started to go better on the front nine for the Swede as he added birdies at the first and third, and narrowly missed a final-hole birdie try at the par three ninth. One other bogey meant he ended his day at four-over par, currently in a tie for 123rd.

But rather than be disheartened, Dantorp will make the most of a friendlier tee time (12.48pm local time) to try and get his driving back on track as he targets a spot at the weekend.

"I felt like my game was solid and I will go to the range and give it my best tomorrow," he said.

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