U.S. OPEN: Canadian Adam Hadwin leads after first round in Brookline

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — There were numerous times growing up that Adam Hadwin’s father Gerry thought his son would be better suited for a sport where he could hit people, such was his child’s temper.

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After Thursday’s opening round, Gerry’s son is leading golf’s 122nd U.S. Open.

The 34-year-old Hadwin shot a four-under par 66 at The Country Club at Brookline and will take a one shot lead over five golfers, including Rory McIlroy, into Friday’s second round.

Hadwin was asked what it’s like to lead the season’s third major after Day 1.

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“Pretty sweet,” the Canadian said. “Not much better of a start to a U.S. Open.”

There is no tournament in the world that requires more patience or a more forgiving attitude than the U.S. Open, two traits that Hadwin hasn’t always possessed but has been working hard on.

“I’m trying to be a little bit more even-keel, maybe a little less emotional on the golf course even though it comes out at times,” Hadwin said after his round. “Certainly just narrowing into the golf shot and the task at hand, and I did a really good job of that today.”

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On a tough and surprisingly windy day at Brookline, Hadwin racked up six birdies on The Country Club’s tiny and tricky greens, including five over a six-hole stretch beginning at the par-4 fourth hole. The closing stretch on the front nine is where players have to attack this difficult classic course just outside Boston, that is expected to only get tougher through the weekend.

“Sometimes you hit good shots and they don’t quite work out; sometimes you hit bad shots and they work out,” Hadwin said. “Numbers, targets and trying to execute, and whatever happens, happens.”

Hadwin credits his longtime caddie Joe Cruz for helping him develop a more easy-going attitude in recent times.

“Joe is so even-keel that looking at him you would never know if I was five-under or five-over, which is great,” Hadwin said. “That’s what you want to have as a player.”

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Cruz agreed and said his player’s attitude was relaxed from the beginning of the round until the final putt.

“It helps when he’s frickin’ striping everything,” Cruz added with a smile.

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It was indeed a stripe show for the PGA Tour winner and two-time Presidents Cup player. Hadwin’s game off the tee was solid and his approach game was spectacular, frequently showing off perfect distance control, something The Country Club demands with its many ridges and slopes.

The Canadian told Postmedia earlier in the week that he thought this golf course was a fairer test than many U.S. Open courses he had played, with less of an emphasis on distance and rough that’s thick, but playable.

“Sixty-six at a U.S. Open to take the first-round lead is incredible,” Hadwin said. “It’s something nobody can ever take away from me, but I have bigger things on my mind. There’s lots of golf left.”

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Last week’s RBC Canadian Open winner McIlroy will be looking to chase Hadwin down and end an eight-year drought at the majors. The Northern Irishman is as motivated as ever, maybe moreso as he plays a central role in the ongoing war between the PGA Tour and Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Series.

He also seems to have ended his bad habit of getting off to slow starts at majors, something that has plagued him in recent years.

“I’m going into (Friday) with the mindset of let’s keep it going, rather than where is the cut line or whatever,” McIlroy said. “It’s certainly a different mindset when you get off to a good start.”

McIlroy is joined at three-under by Joel Dahmen, David Lingmerth, Callum Tarren and MJ Daffue. A shot further back at two-under is a group of seven players, including Englishmen Matthew Fitzpatrick and Justin Rose, as well as LIV golfer Dustin Johnson.

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Defending champion Jon Rahm shot a one-under 69, as did Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and nine others.

It wasn’t a great day for most of Norman’s LIV golfers with Phil Mickelson falling flat with an eight-over 78. Louis Oosthuizen shot a 77 and Sergio Garcia shot 74.

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Aside from owning the top of the leaderboard, it was a mixed day for the other five Canadians in the field.

Corey Conners shot a one-over 71 and Mackenzie Hughes shot a two-over par 72. Hughes walked off the course with a sour taste in his mouth after bogeying his final hole.

“There was lots of good but I made two or three mistakes that I think were just mental errors, making bogeys from the middle of the fairway, bogeyed the last hole,” Hughes said. “Just an OK grade for the day.”

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Nick Taylor shot a three-over 73.

It was a day of firsts for two of the six Canadians in the field, with Roger Sloan and Ben Silverman making their major championship debut.

“It felt awesome, I had a lot of nerves floating around here and there and I was just trying to breathe through them,” Silverman said after shooting a solid two-over 72. “There’s just a lot going on around here. I was getting applause for shots on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Things didn’t go as well for Sloan, who shot a six-over 76 in his maiden trip around a major championship.

“The U.S. Open got me today,” Sloan said. “I wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders and it just kind of exposes some weaknesses. Hit some poor iron shots and got myself out of position. I was really excited to play and it’s more of a mental test really.”

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