Saturday 20 January 2018

US Open: Uphill battle for Rory McIlroy but it’s looking good for Graeme McDowell

Rory McIlroy reacts to a poor first round on the 18th green at the 112th US Open. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy reacts to a poor first round on the 18th green at the 112th US Open. Photo: Getty Images
Rory reacts to his tee shot on the seventh hole. Photo: Reuters

Karl MacGinty

RORY McILROY faces a grim battle just to make the cut at the US Open ... but his best pal in professional golf, Graeme McDowell, is beautifully placed to keep the gleaming silver trophy in Ulster.

It’s a measure of the defending champion’s disappointment that he declined to speak with reporters after the first round 77 which left him 11-strokes off the pace at the Olympic Club.

While McIlroy struggled to find any of that old Congressional magic on a golf course which plainly didn’t suit him, McDowell once again rose superbly to the strategic challenge posed by the toughest of golf’s four Majors.

The Portrush ace, crowned US Open champion at Pebble Beach two years ago, matched his best opening round at this championship with a one-under par 69.

It placed him in a five-way tie for second with Justin Rose, David Toms, Nick Watney and the resurgent Tiger Woods … Watney made only the third Albatross in US Open history when he hold his second shot, a 190 yards 5-iron, at 17.

McDowell and England’s Rose both had powerful birdie-birdie finishes.

Michael Thompson, 27, a second year PGA Tour pro who was leading amateur in his only other US Open appearance at Torrey Pines in 2008, shot a stunning 66.

His three stroke lead matched that held by McIlroy after last June’s first round 65 in Washington.

In contrast, the Holywood star’s 77 featured just one birdie. Luke Donald had none in his 79, while Westwood made just two in a round of 73 – hardly the fare one expects from the world’s top-three.

Dubliners Padraig Harrington and Peter Lawrie were just inside the projected cut mark on four-over after their opening 74’s.

Harrington was frustrated by two four-putts and one three-putt, while Lawrie could be quietly satisfied with a relatively tidy first competitive round in this gruelling arena.

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