Quinn of the U.S. reacts to his chip on the 18th green during the first round of the U.S. Open Championship in Pinehurst

Fran Quinn reacts to his chip on the 18th green during the first round of the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS / June 12, 2014)

PINEHURST, N.C. — Fran Quinn has won in Thailand, Saskatchewan, Panama and Idaho.

He has missed cuts in odd locales too. Hey, he's 49 and he has been at this a while.

His golf odyssey continued Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2, and the Northwestern alumnus took full advantage by shooting a 2-under 68 to share second place at the U.S. Open.

"A dream start," Quinn called it.

Quinn finished the round in style, sinking a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 9 as darkness began to descend on Pinehurst.

"It's only one round," he said. "But on the front nine, I played beautiful."

This is Quinn's fourth U.S. Open, including a made cut in 1994 that netted him $7,222. A regular on the Web.com Tour, Quinn's last Open came in 1996 — before his caddie was born.

Son Owen, 15, is on the bag after helping his father qualify by shooting 69-69 to share medalist honors in Purchase, N.Y.

"He did a terrific job," Quinn said. "He has such a great disposition. He's positive. He understands the game of golf and he's an athlete; he knows how to compete."

The Massachusetts native and resident finished as the low Wildcat, beating U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick (71) and former world No. 1 Luke Donald (77). Quinn earned a degree in economics from Northwestern in 1987.

"It was a great experience," he said. "We had a great coach in Wally Goodwin. He ended up moving on to Stanford and coaching Tiger (Woods). A terrific man."

Style points: Rickie Fowler was only 10 when Payne Stewart won the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Stewart died in a plane crash four months later, and his championship has been given extra celebration at Pinehurst since.

Fowler did his part to further honor the memory Thursday, donning Stewart's trademark knickers with argyle socks.

"Payne was one of my all-time favorite players," Fowler said. "I never had a chance of meeting him, but obviously loved watching him play and loved how he handled himself on and off the golf course."

Fowler shot an even-par 70. So will the knickers be back on display Friday?

"I think I'm back to pants tomorrow," he said.

Easy does it: The par-5 fifth hole yielded the most birdies with 54 players capitalizing. All five of the day's eagles also came there.

The hole, which played as a par-4 in the 2005 U.S. Open, is listed at 576 yards. But a forward tee box was used Thursday to make the hole play 528 yards, opening the door for players to attack a severely sloping green in two.

Of the 15 players who posted under-par rounds, 10 birdied No. 5 and Graeme McDowell and Kevin Na made eagles.