And they had plenty of company in red numbers, so much that Erin Hills set a U.S. Open record for the first round by yielding 44 sub-par rounds, breaking by five the record set in 1990 at Medinah.
But Thomas knew what he was doing.
Champ, a qualifier from Texas A&M, is leading the 156-player field in average driving distance over the first two rounds at 339 yards, and is tied for eighth on the leaderboard, two shots off the pace at five-under-par after yesterday's three-under 69.
There were also 43 pars, 20 bogeys and two double-bogeys as the hole averaged 4.37 strokes. He didn't hit a fairway after the 10th hole and shot a 78, his highest score in the U.S. Open.
The big talking point coming into the championship was that the USGA needed a "mistake free" U.S. Open after a couple of years of messy drama and the organization tripping over itself.
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Everyone has to start somewhere, and that's been the case for the last six majors, all won by players who had never won a Grand Slam event before. Fowler lost his lead with three straight bogeys on the back nine. Because of that you can go out and play some great golf but you have a bunch of guys out there that can play some good golf as well. "I was just happy that I was the one that was able to take advantage of it today".
But Thomas was more focused on the 63 than the par record for the Open. He shot 75 and missed the cut.
Amazingly it could have been even better if not for bogeys on the fourth and 10th, as well as a missed eagle putt from six feet on the 15th after he had driven the green on the 288-yard par four.
"This week I've been working with my coach, just sitting there and thinking, all right, let's go out and try to make a good golf swing and try to make a good putt".
The man was the only person aboard when the craft went down shortly before midday at the Erin Hills golf course in Erin, Wisconsin.
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Jordan Spieth couldn't get anything going on the greens and finished with a 73.
"After yesterday's round, I received a couple of tips from different people, and it seemed to work well", he said. He also joined McIlroy (2011 at Congressional) and Tiger Woods (2000 at Pebble Beach) as the only players to shoot 66 or better in the opening round without a bogey.
However, Thomas bettered those performances with a remarkable 63 that saw him become the first player to complete a U.S. Open round in nine under par.
"I was upset with the score I had made, but it did not have any effect on my attitude or how I was going to then approach the rest of the round or the next shot". He two-putted for birdie, and he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th.
And become the seventh consecutive first-time major victor. But more storms were in the forecast for Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, so there's not much chance of Erin Hills getting firm, fast and scary.
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