Rory McIlroy's rough opener leaves uphill climb at U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy's rough opener leaves uphill climb at U.S. Open

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Rory McIlroy's rough opener leaves uphill climb at U.S. Open

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UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Thursday was an open invitation for low scoring at the 115th U.S. Open, with a cordial, welcome-to-town setup and a gentle breeze off the Puget Sound barely jostling flags at Chambers Bay. Unfortunately, an ice-cold putter prevented Rory McIlroy from enjoying it.

While many other top players were finishing in red, McIlroy made bogeys at two of his last three holes to stumble in at 2-over 72. It wasn’t the end of the tournament for him, but it certainly makes the rest of his week a steeper climb.

“I’m disappointed not to get in under par,” said the 26-year-old World No. 1, who is seeking his second U.S. Open title and fifth major overall. “I hit enough fairways and enough greens; unfortunately I just didn’t quite have it with the putter today. That’s something I need to get right over the next three days if I’m going to have a chance.”

McIlroy hit 10 fairways and 12 greens in regulation, and felt he gave himself enough decent looks at birdies that he should have walked away with more than two of them. The problem was, he used the putter 34 times.

At one point in the middle of his round, McIlroy reeled off eight consecutive pars, which is fine at a U.S. Open. But he followed with a rough finish on the front nine (his second nine), three-putting for bogey at the rugged par-4 seventh, settling for par at the straightaway par-5 eighth, and then failing to get up and down for par from a bunker at the par-3 ninth. He missed a 6-footer for par there.

He said afterward that the fescue putting surfaces “weren’t the best that I’ve ever putted on,” but he wasn’t leaning on that as an excuse. The other 155 players in the field putted on the same surfaces, and most holed out far better than he did.

“I still feel that if you make a good-enough stroke and you have the right speed, there’s a good chance the ball will go in,” he said. “I need to find some sort of rhythm in my stroke over the next three days.”

McIlroy comes into the U.S. Open off back-to-back missed cuts in Europe at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and Dubai Irish Open at Royal County Down. Before that, he’d won two of his last three starts in the U.S. (WGC-Cadillac Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship), so as the U.S. Open neared, the big question remained: Which Rory will we see? He arrived in the Seattle area last weekend, and was reinvigorated and refreshed after playing tourist for a few days on the streets of London and getting in some good practice sessions at home in south Florida.

He says his game is pretty sharp from tee to green, especially his driving, which could be a big separator on a long, brawny layout such as this one. That’s what left him frustrated after getting so little out of his game on Thursday.

“Tee to green, I played well, I just didn’t take advantage. I let myself down on the greens,” McIlroy said. “I couldn’t get any rhythm going, or any kind of confidence. I had a couple of missed reads, and a couple of bad strokes. When you don’t trust it, you tend to make tentative strokes. I need to work on that.”

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