US Open: Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay tame ferocious No. 2 Pinehurst but Scottie Scheffler starts slow



CNN

Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay emerged unscathed when Pinehurst’s infamous No. 2 course sunk its teeth into the first-round field at the 124th US Open on Thursday.

The hard and fast conditions sent performance scores spiraling in North Carolina, but Northern Ireland’s McIlroy and American Cantlay tamed the beast, each shooting five-under 65 to equal the tournament’s lowest-ever score on the field and take an early share of the lead.

Seeking to end a 10-year wait for his fifth major title, world number three McIlroy was a picture of control, avoiding one bogey before finishing with a stunning putt from nearly 20 feet.

The omens looked good for the 35-year-old. When German Martin Kaymer opened the tournament with the same score in 2014, he repeated this feat the next day before achieving victory. The last three times McIlroy got off to a trouble-free start at a major, he went on to lift the trophy – including the 2011 US Open.

“Certainly, in the Grand Slams that I’ve won or the ones where I’ve played well, I’ve always seemed to start well, and it’s good to start in another tournament,” McIlroy told reporters.

“The greens are a little steeper and there’s a little more movement on them. But there are options. You can chip it. You can putt it. I wish we played more golf courses like this,” he added.

Neck and neck is eight-time PGA Tour winner Cantlay, who poured in six birdies to record a sub-70 for the first time in nine appearances at the US Open, making a perfect start to his latest quest for a long-awaited first major championship.

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“I’ve worked really hard on my game, and usually when you just make some changes and work hard, it’s just a matter of time,” world number nine Cantlay told reporters.

By contrast, world number one Scottie Schaeffler is already gunning for his second major win – and sixth – in just his ninth start of the season, but the tournament favorite left himself ground to make up after opening with a one-over 71.

The reigning Masters champion was uncharacteristically error-prone, hitting just six of 14 fairways.

Playing partner and last month’s PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele did better with 70 points, while defending champion Wyndham Clark shot 73 points.

Schaeffler got off to an unusually slow start.

Swede Ludwig Aberg leads the chasing pack one stroke behind the leading duo, and the 24-year-old continues to cement his reputation as one of the game’s brightest young stars with 66 openers.

Aberg hit all the fairways and missed just two putts in his first-ever round at the US Open and his third career major outing, after finishing second in his Masters debut in April.

“I’m obviously very, very happy. I don’t want to do that again,” he told reporters.

“I’m always nervous when I play tournament golf. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I think a day when I don’t feel nervous, it’s not a good sign. Obviously there’s a lot of butterflies this morning.”

Aberg is one stroke clear of 2020 champion Bryson DeChambeau and Frenchman Mathieu Pavon, who became the first player in history to make two eagles in a US Open Tour at Pinehurst No. 2 after birdying the fifth and 10th holes in just six. border.

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“We know how difficult the course is, and even if you score two goals in every game, you really have to put the ball in the right place,” Pavon told reporters after shooting a 67.

“That’s all I tried, and it worked. I knocked down some great shots today too, so it’s a really good day.”

Three-time US Open champion Tiger Woods has made a promising start to his 23rd career tournamentResearch and development His tournament appearance but saw his early star drop to a four-over 74.

Playing under special dispensation after failing to automatically qualify for a major championship for the first time in his professional career, the 48-year-old had a one-point lead after six holes and was excellent off the tee throughout but his iron play let him down and he lost his early touch on the greens where he birdied five Ghosts of his early momentum.

Large crowds flocked to follow Woods.

“I think I three-putted the ball two or three times today,” Woods told reporters. “If I clean that up, if I get a couple of iron shots that aren’t as loose as I did, I’ll be there on par.

“I thought I did the only thing I had to do today, which was shoot the ball well…I didn’t capitalize on any of that.”

Woods performed relatively well compared to three of his big-name peers. World number five Norwegian Viktor Hovland has dropped to an opening position of 78th, while multiple major-winning American duo Justin Thomas and Phil Mickelson have endured a similarly nightmare start with 77th and 79th respectively.

The second round kicks off on Friday at 6:45 a.m. EST (11:45 a.m. GMT), with only those among the top 60 teams who make it to the end of play qualifying for the weekend.

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