Despite the presence of 25 club professionals in the field of 150, there are no qualifiers or amateurs to dilute the quality. The nearest thing to an amateur is Sergio Garcia, but the 19-year-old Spanish wonderkid responded in champion fashion to his humiliation at Carnoustie with a brilliant first round of 66 late on Thursday.
Garcia's six-under score, beating by 23 shots his first round in the Open when he finished last of the non-qualifiers at 30 over par, equalled the Medinah course record. He has a liking for shooting the lights out - when he scored a 62 at Loch Lomond there was a power failure in the clubhouse - and on Thursday night thousands were blacked out in downtown Chicago.
Without the heavy rain of the day before but with the course still soft, Garcia did not remain in the record books for long as Skip Kendall, a 34-year-old from Wisconsin, took advantage of the conditions to score a 65 and move from two over to five under.
On one of the longest courses for a major at 7,401 yards, Garcia continued on his way with a birdie at the third to reach seven under. By the turn he had played 27 holes without a dropped shot and maintained a two-stroke advantage.
But that was cut to one when Lee Westwood birdied the last to move to six under. His 68 also puts him in the hunt to be the first European winner of the Wanamaker Trophy. Westwood started his second round at two under on the back of his best-ever opening to a major. Although he did not get up and down at the second, he birdied the fifth and the eighth.
If the 26-year-old from Worksop was affected by a warning for taking too long on his putt at the ninth - the group was on the clock due to the tardiness of one of his playing partners, Chris Perry - it was entirely positive. Westwood rolled in a 55-footer for a birdie at the par-five 10th and then hit his approach stiff at the next. Another dropped shot at the 13th was rectified two holes later. "I'm excited about my game at the moment and think I can run close this week," Westwood said.
With a number of rookies likely to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team, Garcia may not have been guaranteed one of Mark James's wild cards, but he reckons a top-five finish here would see him gain an automatic place.
Garcia, who played with the oldest player in the field, 54-year-old Hale Irwin who won the 1990 US Open at Medinah, only turned professional after becoming the first European to win the low amateur honours at the Masters in April. At the Irish Open last month, he won his sixth tournament as a pro.
"I turned pro three months ago," Garcia said, "but I have probably been playing as a pro for three years. All those tournaments I played as an amateur, it was like playing as a pro but without being paid."
Since his truculent departure from "Carnastie", Garcia has won a small regional event in Valencia, finished 49th at the European Open and missed the cut at the Buick Open last week, something he put down to jet lag. Having got over the tiredness, he is also over the Open. "I just want to say one thing," the boy who wants to be known simply as Sergio stated. "I think I've proved myself today. I think the British Open is done so I don't want to hear any more questions about the Open. But I'm going to tell you this: the difference is that I played very good.
"Everything went the right way, I made some good putts, had a couple of good breaks. At the Open, I started with a triple- bogey and everything went the wrong way. But it has always been the big question so it seemed like I have to prove something and that's what I had to do."
If Garcia made it look all child's play, at least it was a change from the childishness of the American Ryder Cup payment row. Brad Faxon became the latest to put Tiger Woods and David Duval - who both had first-round 70s - under fire. "Tiger and David are acting incredibly selfishly," Faxon said. "They are a tiny minority but because of their standing in the game they have a big voice. This whole controversy is devastating to the vast majority of American players.
"The talk about donating cash to charity is a mask, a smokescreen that looks good in public. Some of those players would prefer the money in their own pockets."
EARLY SECOND ROUND SCORES (US unless stated): 138 L Westwood (GB) 70 68. 139 S Kendall 74 65. 143 C Franco (Para) 72 71; C Perry 70 73. 149 B Boyd 74 75. 154 H Tanaka (Japan) 78 76; B Hughes (Aus) 80 74. 155 M Baker 80 75. 156 R Stelten 77 79.
COMPLETE FIRST-ROUND SCORES AT MEDINAH
US unless stated, par 72
S Garcia (Sp)
J Haas; M Weir (Can); JP Hayes
B Watts; J Kelly; S Cink; B Jobe; C Pavin
B Zabriski; R Karlsson (Swe); D Duval; T Lehman; N Price (Zim); T Woods; M Brooks; L Roberts; L Westwood (GB); C Perry; M James (GB); H Irwin; M A Jimenez (Sp); T Tryba
M Calcavecchia; N Faldo (GB); J Furyk; D Love; S Struver (Ger); B Langer (Ger); R Mediate; B Estes; B Friend; S Hoch; E Romero (Arg); A Cejka (Ger)
G Hjertstedt (Swe); M Reid; A Coltart (GB); H Sutton; J Sluman; B Faxon; D Clarke (GB); M O'Meara; R Beem; C Franco (Para); K Wentworth; J Huston; S Stricker; J Parnevik (Swe); S Pate; T Izawa (Japan); L Wadkins; P Mickelson; A Magee; C Montgomerie (GB); E Els (SA); B Geiberger
S Keppler (GB); F Lickliter; J L Lewis; B Tway; I Woosnam (GB); J Sindelar; F Couples; S Flesch; P Goydos; J Freeman; A Cabrera (Arg); J Maggert; N Ozaki (Japan); G Turner (NZ); T Bjorn (Den); N Henke; L Janzen; S Verplank; P Lawrie (GB); J Leonard; O Browne; K Triplett
K Sutherland; T Herron; T Armour; G Day; V Singh (Fiji); G Kraft; J Van de Velde (Fr); J Cook; M Gilmore; S Schneiter; B Boyd; S Kendall; K Perry; T Pernice; S Dunlap; D Waldorf; R Goosen (SA); B Ford; C DiMarco; S Kelly
D Kestner; G Norman (Aus); T Watson; D Frost (SA); P Stewart; B Mayfair; D Hart; B Andrade; C Parry (Aus); P O'Malley (Aus); H Frazar; C Tucker; J Overton; S Jones; K Schall
R Allenby (Aus); J Carter; P-U Johansson (Swe); D Toms; G Bryan; S Leaney (Aus); B Murray
J Sandelin (Swe); S Gump; D Paulson; B Crenshaw; P Sjoland (Swe); T Stelten; C Stadler; S Maruyama (Japan); T Kite; P Azinger; S Appleby (Aus)
W DeFrancesco; K Thompson; T Thelen; T Tolles; J Lankford; H Tanaka (Japan); B Chamblee; B Glasson
L Nelson; B Upper; J M Olazabal (Sp); C Toulson
M Baker; B Hughes (Aus); M Swilor; S Spence
Withdrew: S Elkington (Aus); F Minoza (Phil) (15 players unable to finish first round on Thursday)Reuse content