Patrick Cantlay took the early route to a strong opening round in the US Open. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy waited to see the rewards on Thursday.
Cantlay racked up six birdies and McIlroy played a bogey-free round on their ways to 5-under-par 65s to share the lead in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
“I knew going off at 7:40 in the morning it’s going to play maybe the easiest it will play all week with the lack of the wind and probably the softest we’ll see it,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay established the lead early in the day, and McIlroy, the 2011 champion, had birdies on two of the final three holes playing in the afternoon.
“I felt like my patience was rewarded there,” McIlroy said. “... It was really nice to finish like that.”
Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg shot 66 to hold third place. France’s Matthieu Pavon had a pair of eagles during the first 10 holes and ended up shooting 67, a mark later matched by 2020 champion Bryson DeChambeau.
Tony Finau, Akshay Bhatia from nearby Raleigh and England’s Tyrrell Hatton shot 68s to share sixth place.
Golfers had to negotiate the tricky greens on Pinehurst No 2 along with the increasing heat of the day.
Cantlay began the round on No 10. He got better later in the round, with four birdies on the first eight holes on the front side.
“Feeling good about my game,” Cantlay said. “I’ve been working hard. I have to just keep putting myself in the fairway, giving myself opportunities and I did a good job of that.”
This is the first time Cantlay has led or co-led in a major.
McIlroy, who chipped in for birdie on No 5, pulled even with a strong closing stretch. He also had a bogey-free first round when he won in 2011. “I felt like I controlled most aspects of my game really well,” McIlroy said. “I was very disciplined when I needed to be.”
Cantlay’s putt on the final attempt at a birdie on the last hole clipped the cup and stayed out. Otherwise, he would have had the lowest US Open round on this course.
Still, the masterful performance involved only 23 putts and he posted the third-ever 65 in the championship at this venue. One reason for Cantlay’s low number of putts: He holed a shot from the greenside bunker on No 11.
Pavon became the first golfer to ever record multiple eagles in the same US Open round at Pinehurst. His first breakthrough came with an eagle on No 5 and later on No 10 - the course’s two par-5 holes - where he rolled in putts of 18 feet and 27 feet. He reached 5 under before his first bogey on the par-4 11th. After the second eagle, Pavon played the final eight holes in 2 over.
It was a rough day for Tiger Woods, who shot 74 with two birdies - both on the par-5 holes - and six bogeys. Woods, who began the round on the back nine, birdied his first hole. But a seven-hole stretch with five bogeys sent him tumbling down the standings.
“I didn’t hit my irons particularly well,” Woods said. “... But I drove it on a string all day. Unfortunately, I just didn’t capitalise on it.”
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