Two days after stressing the need for a fast start in his pursuit of a fifth major title, Rory McIlroy’s prayers were answered on day one of the 120th US Open at a surprisingly benign Winged Foot.
Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy shot five over par to win the last US Open at the venue in 2006, while American Hale Irwin was seven over in surviving the so-called “Massacre at Winged Foot” in 1974.
However, on a day when 21 players broke par, McIlroy’s 67 left him two shots off the lead held by Justin Thomas, with McIlroy’s former Ryder Cup partner – and fellow new father – Thomas Pieters alongside Matthew Wolff and Patrick Reed on four under par.
Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen were alongside McIlroy on three under, but world number one and FedEx Cup winner Dustin Johnson struggled to a 73.
Made birdie on the first though buddy https://t.co/S80TJlJ2Ib— Matt Fitzpatrick (@MattFitz94) September 17, 2020
Matt Fitzpatrick struggled to an opening 74, but still had the last word after receiving some abuse on social media following an earlier post by his caddie Billy Foster.
Phil Mickelson after spraying his 2nd shot way left on the 9th hole:— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) September 17, 2020
"I'm so sick of this."
He's +2 on the day. pic.twitter.com/l9uFOmVgBf
Phil Mickelson’s approach to the ninth was so far off target it ended up on the first tee – and he was not impressed on his way to a dismal 79.
Patrick Reed was two over par after five holes, but birdied the sixth and then made a spectacular hole-in-one on the seventh.
Justin Thomas carded six birdies and one bogey in his opening 65, the lowest score in any US Open at Winged Foot.
Tiger Woods now has 3 rounds in his major championship career where he made 5+ birdies but still shot over par. 2 have been at Winged Foot.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) September 17, 2020
1997 PGA, Rd 3
2014 Open, Rd 3
2020 U.S. Open, Rd 1
Unsurprisingly, the par-five ninth was the easiest hole on the course and played to an average of 4.639 with 56 birdies and two eagles.
The 498-yard par-four 16th was the toughest, playing to an average of 4.340 and yielding just seven birdies.
The chances of some firmer greens and tougher pin positions after 21 players broke par on the opening day; only Colin Montgomerie did so in 2006.
Phil Mickelson’s increasingly slim chances of winning the US Open to complete a career grand slam. The 50-year-old slumped to an opening 79.