We look back through the last 50 US Opens to see where the first round leader finishes the tournament

Where Does The US Open First Round Leader Finish?

Going by the commonly used phrase ‘you’ve got to get off to a good start if you want a chance of winning,’ you would expect a large number of players who have led the first round at the US Open after the first round to go onto and win the tournament.

This article looks at how the first round leaders get on in the US Open.

First Place

Of the 50 US Opens that have been competed since 1969, on only 10 occasions has the leader of the first round gone on to win the tournament.

  • Martin Kaymer -2014
  • Rory McIlroy – 2011
  • Tiger Woods – 2000 & 2002
  • Retief Goosen – 2001
  • Payne Stewart – 1991
  • Jack Nicklaus – 1972 & 1980
  • Hubert Green- 1977
  • Tony Jacklin – 1970

Of those 10, four have won it ‘wire to wire.’ They are:

  • Tony Jacklin – 1970
  • Tiger Woods – 2000 & 2002
  • Rory McIlroy – 2011
  • Martin Kaymer – 2014

With only 11% of first round leaders going on to win the tournament, we look at where the most frequent finishing position for the first round leader is.

Second Place

With 97 players leading the first round of the US Open since 1969, you would expect a number of them to finish in the runners-up spot.

However, only six players have ever finished runner-up having led the first round, with both Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie finishing as the runner up on two occasions.

  • Dustin Johnson – 2015
  • Phil Mickelson – 1999 & 2013
  • Michael Thompson – 2012
  • Colin Montgomerie – 1997 & 2006
  • Payne Stewart – 1998
  • Chen Tze-chung – 1985

Mickelson has actually finished runner-up at the US Open on six occasions, the most of any player.

Third Place

With so few first round leaders going on to either win or finish as the runner up, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a number of them finishing in third place.

However again, this is not the case, with only four players coming third having been leading after day one.

  • Justin Rose – 2019
  • Dustin Johnson – 2018
  • Craig Parry – 1993
  • Bill Rogers – 1982

Fourth Place

Surprisingly, no first round leader has finished in fourth place since 1987, when Ben Crenshaw shot a two over par 72 to secure his second best US Open result.

  • Ben Crenshaw – 1987
  • Seve Ballesteros – 1983
  • Hale Irwin – 1978
  • Tom Purtzer – 1977

Fifth Place

Fifth place is a reasonably infrequent finishing position for the first round leader, with only three players that have led the first round ending up in this position.

2018’s first round leader Rickie Fowler finished just inside the top five, ending the tournament with a total score of 10 under par.

  • Rickie Fowler – 2017
  • Scott Hoch – 1993
  • Bob Murphy – 1969

Top 10

A top-10 finish is quite a common result for the first round leader, with nearly 20% of first round leaders ending the tournament inside this bracket.

Players that have recorded a top-10 result having led the first round include Tom Watson on two occasions, Mike Weir and Gary Player, all the way back in 1974.

Top 50

Ending the tournament inside the top-50, but outside the top-10 has been the most frequent result for first round leaders of the US Open.

Over 1/3 of them have finished inside this bracket, with Jim Thorpe ending the tournament in 11th place in 1981, whilst Paul Goydos and Gary Player finished in 12th in 1999 and 1973 respectively.

Missed Cut

Only on one occasion has the first round leader of the US Open gone on to miss the cut to not play at the weekend.

The unfortunate man who this happened to was Joey Sindelar in 1993, who shared the lead on Thursday having shot a four under par 66, before shooting 79 on Friday to be the only first round leader of the US Open to miss the cut.

First Round Leader

There are a number of players who have led the US Open after the first round on a more than one occasion, with Payne Stewart having the most first round leads.

He led after the first round on four occasions, in 1989, 1991, 1996 and 1998.

However, Stewart failed to turn three of those first round leads into victories, with his only victory after leading the first round coming in 1991.

Other players to have led after the first round more than once include Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin and Jim Thorpe, who all led after the first round twice.

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