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McIlroy and Spieth facing uphill battle at Shinnecock Hills

Four-time major winner McIlroy was nine over par after a difficult start, while playing partner Spieth was five over.

Windy conditions quickly helped send scores soaring on the first day of the 118th US Open at Shinnecock Hills, with former champion Rory McIlroy one of the high-profile victims.

McIlroy and playing partners Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth were among the early starters hoping to take advantage of a course softened by Wednesday’s rain.

But the four-time major winner struggled to the turn in 42 as the marquee group combined to play the back nine in 15 over par with just two birdies between them.

McIlroy had been bullish about his prospects after a lengthy spell of preparation at Shinnecock and other courses on Long Island, but his prospects of a second US Open title were quickly blown off course.

After missing from seven feet for birdie on the 10th, his opening hole, McIlroy dropped shots on the next two holes and then ran up back-to-back double bogeys on the 13th and 14th.

McIlroy briefly stopped the rot with a birdie on the 15th, only to drop further shots on the 16th and 18th and then run up a double bogey on the first after a wayward tee shot.

At nine over par the former world number one faced a battle just to break 80 on the par-70 layout, while Mickelson was a relatively respectable four over par and Spieth five over despite a triple-bogey six on the 11th.

At the top of the leaderboard, England’s Ian Poulter and American Matt Kuchar were setting the pace on two under, with Scotland’s Russell Knox a shot behind.

Justin Rose and Masters champion Patrick Reed were part of a group on level par that also included Matt Fitzpatrick and Scot Calum Hill, the pair having both made eagle on the par-five fifth.

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