Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy share lead following opening round – US Open

Round 1

Rory McIlroy made a dream start to his bid to claim an elusive fifth major title by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the 124th US Open.

McIlroy, chasing a first major victory since his 2014 PGA Championship success, carded five birdies in a bogey-free 65 at Pinehurst No 2 to match the early clubhouse target set by Patrick Cantlay.

The Northern Irishman said ahead of this week that he was “closer than ever” to ending a decade-long major drought, and McIlroy – who has already claimed three worldwide victories this season – backed it up with his first blemish-free start to a US Open since his wire-to-wire win in 2011.

Cantlay birdied three of his last five holes to also get to five under, with debutant Ludvig Åberg a shot back in third ahead of 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon.

McIlroy was playing alongside PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele and world No 1 Scottie Scheffler, who carded rounds of 70 and 71 respectively, while defending champion Wyndham Clark struggled to a three-over 73 and Tiger Woods fell nine behind with an opening-round 74.

McIlroy opened with three straight pars and followed a seven-foot birdie at the fourth by chipping in for another at the par-five next, with the 35-year-old reaching the turn in 33 and then taking advantage of the par-five 10th.

The former world No 1 ended a run of two-putt pars by converting a 10-foot birdie at the par-four 16th, before a 20-foot birdie at the last saw him complete his first bogey-free start to a major since his 2014 victory at The Open.

McIlroy was one of only two players to post a bogey free opening round.

Cantlay mixed six birdies with a lone bogey during an impressive start, while DeChambeau – who impressed off the tee during the opening day – threatened a late push for the lead when he carded a first-nine 33 and added further birdies at the third and fifth.

The American missed from eight feet to save par at the seventh, though, and slipped back to three under alongside Pavon, who held a two-shot lead earlier in the day following two eagles in the space of six holes.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Tony Finau started with 68s and Sergio Garcia took advantage of a late entry into the event to post a bogey-free 69, while Collin Morikawa recorded a birdie-birdie finish to salvage a level-par 70 to sit five back alongside Schauffele and five-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

Schauffele – chasing back-to-back major victories after last month’s win at Valhalla – mixed four birdies with as many bogeys during an erratic open day, as Scheffler struggled off the tee and fell six behind in his bid for a sixth PGA Tour title in nine starts.

Open champion Brian Harman started with a one-over 71 and Clark made just one birdie in his title defence, carding four bogeys along the way, as Woods cited a lack of sharpness and a poor display on the greens after being unable to build on his strong start.

Woods held a share of the lead lead after playing the first six holes in one under but then slipped back with five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch, although he was later seen on the range offering support to Justin Thomas after the two-time major champion slumped to a seven-over 77.

Ludvig Åberg continued his fine form at major tournaments.

Shane Lowry endured a tough opening round in North Carolina, posting a four-over par 74, which was at least brightened by a closing 30ft birdie on 18.

The 2019 Open champion admitted his confidence had been rocked somewhat by a shocking final round 85 in the Memorial last Sunday and he reached the turn in 38, with bogeys on the second, seventh and eighth after missing the green with all three approaches. He even required a 25ft putt to save bogey on the seventh.

He would drop to five over after further successive bogeys on 11 and 12, though rallied somewhat over the closing stretch with birdies on 14 and 18, although a missed five-footer was cost him another stroke on 17.

It was a happier story for Seamus Power, one of the earliest starters on Thursday, who is nestled just inside the top-40 at the close of Day 1.

Playing in his first major of the year, Power, who booked his spot in the field via the qualification tournament in Columbus, carded a battling 71 in highly testing conditions.

The two-time PGA Tour winner endured his own horror story on Pinehurst’s notorious greens, four-putting the 18th (his ninth of the round) for a double bogey to fall to two-over par.

A further bogey followed on the second hole but Power rallied impressively with three successive birdies on three, four and five to get back to even par. While the round would finish on a bum note with a bogey on the ninth, it was still a reasonable score leaving him 39th place heading into Friday.

Tiger Woods carded a four over par opening round.

It is Power’s third appearance at a US Open, finishing an excellent 12th in Brookline in 2012 but missing the cut at LA Country Club last year.

Tom McKibbin, playing in his first US Open, and his first major, carded a four-over 74. The field’s second most illustrious golfer from Holywood briefly got into red numbers early with a birdie at 13 (his fourth) but a double-bogey followed at the par-three 15th, with further dropped strokes coming at 17, the first and eighth holes.

McIlroy, who started with a bogey-free round in three of his four major wins, said: “I went through a run there for a while where my starts at major championships weren’t very good. Probably got myself a little too worked up at the start of the week.

“But back to the PGA (Championship) I opened with a five under there at Valhalla. Even going all the way back to this tournament last year, I opened with a low one. It wasn’t quite as low as Rickie (Fowler) and Xander (Schauffele), but it was nice to open up with a low one and feel like you’re right in the tournament from the first day.

“Certainly the major championships that I’ve won or the ones that I’ve played well at, I’ve always seemed to get off to a good start, and it’s nice to get off to another one.

“My short game was good early on. I chipped in at five and had a really good up and down on six and on eight. But apart from that, I think I hit every other green. It was a really controlled round of golf.”

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