Tuesday 23 July 2019

Rory McIlroy endures frustrating start to US Open at Pinehurst

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst
Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst

Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy endured a frustrating start to his bid for a second US Open title in the early stages of the first round at Pinehurst on Thursday.

McIlroy missed good birdie chances on the first two holes, but Phil Mickelson was among those quickly into red figures as he looks to become only the sixth man to win all four major titles.

Defending champion Justin Rose, playing alongside Mickelson and US Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, opened with two pars, while Mickelson and Fitzpatrick both made birdie on the 617-yard par-five 10th.

And when Sheffield teenager Fitzpatrick also birdied the 12th, the 19-year-old was sharing the early lead with American Brandt Snedeker in his last event before turning professional in time for the Irish Open next week.

McIlroy came into the event buoyed by his recent victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which came just four days after he announced he had called off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

The 25-year-old revealed he had "stuck his head" into his golf ever since, leaving his phone switched off and limiting his use of social media, while setting an ambitious target of winning two of the year's remaining three majors.

The former world number one missed from 20 feet for birdie at the first and from just four feet on the second, a green he predicted would be hit only 20 per cent of the time this week.

McIlroy was also unable to birdie the par-five fifth as playing partner Graeme McDowell made an eagle three to move to one under par following a bogey on the previous hole.

Fitzpatrick had dropped back to one under after three-putting the 14th, where Rose found a bunker off the tee to card his second consecutive bogey but Mickelson birdied from three feet to get to two under.

That was one off the lead held by Snedeker after his third birdie of the day on the seventh, with the early starters making the most of the cloud cover which meant the greens were more receptive than expected.

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