PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Matthew Fitzpatrick never looked overwhelmed Thursday, not by the pressure of his first U.S. Open nor by the two guys next to him.
One was the defending champion, Justin Rose.
The other was Phil Mickelson.
The U.S. Amateur champion handled the moment just fine at Pinehurst No. 2. He opened with a 1-over 71 in his final event before turning pro. There were good moments (four birdies), bad (five bogeys) and frustrating (a one-shot penalty) in a performance that left the Englishman "pleased and disappointed at the same time, really."
"For me, we just played away from flags and tried to play for the fattest part of the green — fattest and flattest," Fitzpatrick said. "And I ended up pulling it or pushing it close to the flags I think, so it was kind of a positive plan in a way. It worked out quite well on some holes and not so well on others."
Fitzpatrick, with boyish looks younger than his 19 years, had a solid start while playing alongside Rose and Mickelson in one of the day's most watched groups.
Fitzpatrick birdied two of his first three holes while starting on the back nine and avoided major trouble, leaving him solidly in the upper half of the leaderboard.
Fitzpatrick — who is scheduled to make his professional debut next week at the Irish Open — twice had back-to-back bogeys to erase his fast start, then picked up a penalty stroke that led to his final bogey late in the round. After hitting long of the green on the par-4 eighth, Fitzpatrick said the ball moved as he rested his club in the grass.
"He's a wonderful putter and probably left one or two out on the green," Rose said. "I think 71 he shot was a great round of golf. But he could have had an opportunity to be a couple better than that. He played really well today."
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