Friday 23 February 2018

Rory McIlroy's comments come back to haunt him as he suffers nightmare opening round in US Open

Rory McIlroy reacts after his putt on the 18th green
Rory McIlroy reacts after his putt on the 18th green

Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy's comments on the decision to cut down heavy rough at Erin Hills came back to haunt him as he struggled to an opening 78 in the 117th US Open.

Tall fescue grass on the fourth, 12th, 14th and 18th holes was being cut on Tuesday as McIlroy gave his pre-tournament press conference, which caught the 2011 champion by surprise.

''Really?'' an incredulous McIlroy said. "They're the widest fairways we've ever played in a US Open. You've got 156 of the best players in the world here. If we can't hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.''

Unfortunately for McIlroy, he might well be doing just that on Friday afternoon, the 28-year-old following an eagle on the second - where he drove the green on the 330-yard par four - with four bogeys and double bogeys on the 15th and 17th.

McIlroy, who hit just five fairways to tie for last in the 156-man field in that category, said: "I don't think I hit a fairway from the 10th and you cannot play this golf course if you are not in position off the tee. I obviously paid the price today.

The fairways should be wide enough for me to hit, it was just one of those days. My timing was just a little bit off. I started missing some left and tried to correct it and missed a couple right.

McIlroy won the US Open with a record 16-under-par total in 2011, but was a combined 50 over par for his seven other appearances before this week and missed the cut at Oakmont last year following rounds of 77 and 71.

The 28-year-old needed to make a fast start on Friday to avoid another early exit, but missed from five feet for birdie on the 10th - his opening hole - and 12 feet on the 11th, before a poor chip from the back of the 12th green led to a bogey.

Playing just his seventh tournament of the year due to a rib injury, McIlroy bounced back with a birdie from 12 feet on the 13th, but at six over par he remained five shots outside the projected cut mark.

Playing partner Jason Day was also six over and 13 shots off the lead held by American Rickie Fowler, who was among the later starters.

Fowler briefly had company at the top of the leaderboard when England's Paul Casey birdied the 11th from close range, but Casey then bogeyed the 12th and ran up a triple-bogey eight on the 14th.

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