Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita - Credit: USGA/Jonathan Ernst

Hiroyuki Fujita and Richard Green Share Lead Following First Round of 2024 U.S. Senior Open at Newport

After three days of perfect summer weather in Rhode Island, featuring sunshine and breezes that transformed Newport Country Club into a USGA championship-caliber course with firm and fast conditions, the 156 competitors in the 44th U.S. Senior Open enjoyed prime scoring opportunities. Even when the sun broke through the clouds and the winds picked up, the impressive scores continued to roll in.

Leading the charge were Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita and Australian lefty Richard Green, who both delivered bogey-free, 7-under-par 63s. Their outstanding performances were part of a larger trend, as a total of 42 players broke par on the challenging 6,954-yard layout, marking the 1,001st USGA championship hosted by Newport Country Club. Interestingly, more sub-70 scores were posted in the afternoon (23) than in the morning (19).

Thursday’s scoring average of 71.76, featuring 42 sub-par rounds, matched a championship-high for a single round, last seen in 2019 at the Warren Course at Notre Dame.

Co-leader Richard Green – Credit: USGA/Kathryn Riley

Local favorite Billy Andrade, hailing from nearby Bristol, R.I., shone in the afternoon’s windier conditions, carding a bogey-free 64. His round included birdies on three of his first four holes, earning him a season-best score. Canadian Stephen Ames, another afternoon competitor and a two-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions this year, also delivered a bogey-free round of 65.

Among those trailing closely were past champions Steve Stricker (2019), Padraig Harrington (2022), and Jeff Maggert (2015), along with Craig Barlow, Bob Estes, Paul Broadhurst, Lee Westwood, 2023 British Senior Open champion Alex Cejka, and qualifiers Matthew Goggin and David von Hoffmann, all sitting three strokes back at 4-under-par.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen led a group at 3-under 67, which included notable names like Justin Leonard, Stuart Appleby, Paul Stankowski, Rod Pampling, and Phillip Archer. Other players who shot 68 included 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.

Fujita, 55, competing in his second U.S. Senior Open after qualifying for five U.S. Opens, birdied three consecutive holes from No. 4, posting a front-nine 30 and adding two more birdies to finish one shot off the 18-hole championship scoring record. With 18 Japan Golf Tour victories, including three on the Japan Senior Golf Tour, Fujita’s start was fortuitous.

“Start was good. It was lucky for me,” Fujita remarked, comparing the conditions to Chambers Bay, the site of a previous U.S. Open.

Green, 53, matched Fujita’s 63 despite hitting only 12 of 18 greens. His exceptional scrambling and just 24 putts kept him in contention. This is new territory for Green, a three-time European Tour winner with only one top-10 finish in 20 major-championship starts.

“Where I live in Melbourne, Australia, our conditions are very much the same,” Green said of Newport Country Club. “There’s not a day in the year where it’s not 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.”

Andrade, who has a deep affection for Newport Country Club from his junior golf days, felt the strong support from family, friends, and spectators. He maintained his momentum with a clutch 6-foot par putt on No. 6 and closed with birdies on the par-5 16th and par-3 17th holes.

“When you go into these things, you don’t want to embarrass yourself,” Andrade, 60, said after his round. “I went out today, 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.”

Ames, an eight-time winner on PGA Tour Champions, closed strong with a back-nine 31 after an outward nine of 34.

Cejka, considering withdrawal due to a pinched nerve, managed to play through the pain and joined defending champion Bernhard Langer and reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Todd White in the traditional pairing. He reached 6-under-par before giving two strokes back.

Westwood, in his U.S. Senior Open debut, started with an eagle on the par-5 first hole and continued with steady 2-under-par golf. Harrington, fresh from his third consecutive title at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, managed five birdies against one bogey despite not having his best ball-striking day.

What’s Next

All 156 competitors will play the second round on Friday, starting at 7 a.m. EDT. 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. Golf Channel will broadcast live from noon to 3 p.m., with Peacock taking over from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Notable Moments

Jeff Martin of Attleboro, Mass., who hit the opening tee shot of the championship, had a robust rooting section from Wollaston Country Club, where he is the head pro.

Former Newport head professional Bill Harmon, from the famous golfing family, caddied for Jay Haas. Harmon’s brothers include renowned instructor Butch Harmon.

Manny Zerman, two-time U.S. Amateur runner-up, caddied for David Berganio Jr., his former college teammate.

Notah Begay III registered the first eagle of the championship, holing out on the par-4 11th hole. Thongchai Jaidee followed with an eagle on the 348-yard 12th hole, and Lee Westwood eagled the 571-yard, par-5 first hole.

Gary Koch, the oldest qualifier at 71, opened with a 3-over-par 73. Defending champion Bernhard Langer carded an even-par 70, 4½ months after tearing his Achilles heel while playing pickleball.

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

The stage is set for a thrilling continuation of the U.S. Senior Open, with optimal weather and competitive play promising an unforgettable championship.