After helping the U.S. to the gold medal at the Pan American Games, Brandon Wu took a red-eye flight from Lima, Peru on Sunday evening and less than 24 hours later was standing on the first tee at Pinehurst No. 4.
“I tried to manage my sleep as well as I could,” Wu said. “I slept great on the two flights up here and then took a quick nap before I teed off for about two hours. I actually felt pretty good.”
The Stanford grad took a while to get going on a tough scoring day for both U.S. Amateur host courses, but he eventually caught fire late on the easier No. 4. After playing even-par golf through 13 holes with two birdies, Wu strung together three straight birdies beginning at the par-3 14th hole, and he followed his birdie at the short par-4 16th with eagle at the gettable par-5 penultimate hole.
A closing par left Wu with a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead after the first of two stroke-play qualifying rounds. The top 64 players out of a field of 312 after 36 holes move on to match play, which begins Wednesday on course No. 2.
Wu’s hot start comes as little surprise, as Wu is ranked eighth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and has had a red-hot summer. After going 3-0 in match play to help Stanford to an NCAA team title in late May, Wu qualified for both Opens, at Pebble Beach and Royal Portrush, making the cut at the former. He also was invited to play both Pinehurst courses in early July as part of media day, though the courses were much softer than the firm and fast conditions players saw Monday.
Of the 27 players under par after Day 1, just four of them played No. 2 – William Walker III (2-under 68), Van Holmgren (68), Julien Sale (68) and Spencer Ralston (69).
Notre Dame’s Palmer Jackson and Arizona’s Trevor Werbylo share second at 4 under while 2016 U.S. Amateur runner-up Brad Dalke, an Oklahoma grad, is part of a four-way tie for fourth with Auburn grad Jacob Solomon, Australia’s Blake Windred and Texas Tech’s Sandy Scott.
World No. 1 Cole Hammer, who is trying to lock up the McCormack Medal this week, opened with a 75 on No. 2, as did world No. 3 David Micheluzzi. The third player in the group, No. 2 Conor Gough, shot 79.