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US Open

US Open Round 1 stats analysis: A few key metrics show exactly why the leaders had an edge

Adam Hadwin shot a 4-under 66 in the first round of the US Open.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

What did it take to zoom to the the leaderboard on Day 1 of the US Open at The Country Club? Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock that the golfers who did so generally performed well in virtually every aspect of their craft.

But on a course featuring some of the smallest greens on tour, and with thick rough, bunkers, and fescue ready to swallow stray shots, those golfers who finished atop the pack on Day 1 mostly had the best days in their approaches.

In the 156-golfer field, both first-day leader Adam Hadwin (4 under) and the similarly surprising Callum Tarren (3 under) ranked in the top 60 in all four categories of strokes gained, a metric that compares a player’s performance relative to the rest of the field.

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Hadwin ranked among the top 10 in both approach (2.75 strokes gained, eighth) and shots around the green (2.86 strokes gained, tied for third), helping to position him for six birdies despite a solid but unspectacular putting day (0.57 strokes gained, 59th).

Tarren was in the top 25 in approach, shots around the green, and putting, with his day shaped by a remarkable approach on the par-5 eighth hole that positioned him for an easy eagle.

Rory McIlroy (3 under) landed on 13 greens (tied for sixth), putting him in excellent position relative to the field average of 53 percent of greens in regulation. McIlroy’s putting consistency then permitted him to take advantage of his work both off the tee and in his approach shots to avoid bogeys through his first 17 holes.

When he did miss the greens, he did well to scramble and salvage pars, even if he saw fit to re-sculpt a bunker when he went sand to sand on the par-4 fifth before a huge mid-range putt to avoid bogey.

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Joel Dahmen (3 under) and M.J. Daffue (3 under) ranked among the top five in strokes gained both off the tee and in their approach shots. Dahmen landed on 16 greens, so even with a mediocre putting day (0.13 strokes gained relative to the field), he joined the group just behind Hadwin.

Daffue had a fascinating day of high risk/high reward, reaching just nine of 18 greens. But when he did reach the greens, he did so in excellent position for birdies even on a day when his putting was roughly in line with that of the field. He made six birdies to more than offset his three bogeys and join the group at the top entering Round 2.

David Lingmerth (3 under) was the lone golfer in the top six who lost ground relative to the field (-0.13 strokes gained) in his approach shots. But while he landed on just 10 of 18 greens, he went a remarkable 8 for 8 in scrambles, allowing him to emerge from the first round as the only golfer whose scorecard was unblemished by a bogey.

Strokes gained in Round 1
Player Rd 1 Score Off the tee Approach Around the Green Putting
Adam Hadwin -4 0.59 (T-41) 2.75 (8) 2.86 (T-3) 0.57 (59)
Callum Tarren -3 0.37 (59) 1.78 (23) 1.7 (T-20) 1.92 (21)
David Lingmerth -3 0.4 (T-53) -0.17 (88) 0.62 (T-48) 4.91 (1)
Rory McIlroy -3 0.69 (28) 2.1 (15) -1.36 (132) 4.34 (3)
Joel Dahmen -3 1.48 (4) 3.31 (3) 0.85 (37) 0.13 (86)
M.J. Daffue -3 1.73 (2) 3.03 (5) -1.59 (T-137) 2.6 (10)
AVERAGE RANK 31.2 23.7 62.8 30.0
SOURCE: USGA

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.