Home SportsGolf Rory McIlroy leads US Open, looks to break decade-long major drought

Rory McIlroy leads US Open, looks to break decade-long major drought

by Selinda Phenyo
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World number three Rory McIlroy, chasing his first major victory since the 2014 PGA Championship, delivered a bogey-free round at Pinehurst, defying its dome-shaped greens, sandy waste areas and wiregrass. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images/AFP

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy sank a birdie putt from just inside 20 feet at the 18th hole to complete a five-under-par 65 first round and match Patrick Cantlay for the lead at the US Open on Thursday.

World number three McIlroy, chasing his first major victory since the 2014 PGA Championship, delivered a bogey-free round at Pinehurst, defying its dome-shaped greens, sandy waste areas and wiregrass.

“I’m delighted with the start,” McIlroy said.

“As the week goes on the golf course is going to get a bit faster and a bit firey, but right now, there’s opportunities out there and thankfully I was able to take advantage of them.

“I think more so this championship than the others, getting off to a good start is really important to try to keep yourself up there. Because you need to give yourself as much of a cushion as possible knowing what’s lurking around the corner.”

Fast-finishing Cantlay

America’s ninth-ranked Cantlay, a back-nine starter, birdied three of his last five holes for an early 65 and with McIlroy took a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s sixth-ranked Ludvig Aberg, Masters runner-up in his major debut, with France’s Matthieu Pavon and American Bryson DeChambeau sharing fourth on 67.

“It’s the US Open. It’s supposed to be hard,” Aberg said. “That’s what we’re doing here.”

McIlroy, the 35-year-old from Northern Ireland, sank a seven-foot birdie putt at the fourth hole then chipped in brilliantly from just off the green for a birdie at the par-5 fifth.

The four-time major winner added a birdie putt from just inside seven feet at the par-5 10th then birdied two of the last three holes, sinking an 11-footer at the par-4 16th and then his tension-packed putt at 18.

“I’m really happy with the round I played today.”

More from @patrick_cantlay after his impressive opening round 🎙️ pic.twitter.com/St7tQdPjeZ

— U.S. Open (@usopengolf) June 13, 2024

Scheffler one over; Woods struggles

“I think the one thing we got a little lucky with today was the cloud cover, so the golf course didn’t get as fiery as I expected,” McIlroy said.

“The nice thing is to go out there and take advantage of the conditions and get back out in the morning and try to keep the momentum going.”

McIlroy was second in last year’s US Open, his fifth top-10 effort in a row at the US Open with each better than the last.

An afternoon feature group with the world’s three top players was dominated by McIlroy, with world number one Scottie Scheffler, the Masters champion, firing a 71 and second-ranked Xander Schauffele, who won last month’s PGA Championship, on 70.

Scheffler has five PGA Tour wins this year, the most by any player at this stage since Tom Watson in 1980.

Schauffele snapped a two-year win drought last month with his first major triumph.

Cantlay, seeking his first major triumph, and McIlroy matched the low US Open rounds at Pinehurst, two 65s by Martin Kaymer on his way to victory in 2014.

“Played pretty solid most of the way,” Cantlay said. “The golf course played pretty difficult. But drove it well. Lot of balls on the fairways. Left the ball in the right spots, for the most part.”

Paris Olympics qualification

Cantlay, the 2021 PGA Tour playoff champion, is a contender for a US berth at the Paris Olympics but must finish no worse than second this week to have a chance.

Aberg sank a six-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth to finish on 66 with six birdies and two bogeys.

“Very nice round of golf,” Aberg said. “Not a lot to complain about.”

DeChambeau, last month’s PGA Championship runner-up and the 2020 US Open champion, had four birdies and a bogey, holing out for birdie from 52 feet at 18.

“From a mental exhaustion perspective, this was probably the most difficult that I’ve had in a long time,” DeChambeau said.

Pavon, ranked 24th, soared with eagles at the par-5 fifth on an 18-foot putt and on a 27-foot putt at the par-5 10th hole.

“I made my four best swings of the day on the par-5s and dropped two putts,” Pavon said. “It gave me a little bit of freedom.”

Five-time major winner Brooks Koepka and seventh-ranked Collin Morikawa, a two-time major winner, were among those on 70.

Tiger Woods, a 15-time major winner, struggled to a 74. He had five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch starting at the 16th after teeing off on the back nine.

World number three Rory McIlroy chasing his first major victory since the Championship delivered a bogey free round at Pinehurst
World number three Rory McIlroy, chasing his first major victory since the 2014 PGA Championship, delivered a bogey-free round at Pinehurst, defying its dome-shaped greens, sandy waste areas and wiregrass. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images/AFP

AFP


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