Rory McIlroy posts strong, disciplined U.S. Open start; has history on his side

Rory McIlroy matched Patrick Cantlay’s first-round score at the 124th U.S. Open as he fired off a bogey-free 5-under 65. They both sit atop the leaderboard after the first 18 holes at Pinehurst No. 2.

The last time McIlroy shot a bogey-free opening round at a U.S. Open was in 2011 at Congressional Country Club. He also did not make bogies during his opening rounds at the 2012 PGA Championship and the 2014 Open Championship, all three tournaments he went on to win.

But at Congressional, where went on to win his first major championship of his career, he also started with a bogey-free 65.

“I felt like I controlled most aspects of my game well. Controlled myself, controlled my mind—was disciplined when I needed to be,” McIlroy said on air with NBC Sports’ Damon Hack.

“Relentlessly trying to hit fairways, hit greens—there was a stretch at the start of the back nine where I kept hitting it to 20 feet and missing putts. I could have gotten frustrated, but I felt my patience was rewarded with the birdies on two of the last three holes.”

McIlroy hit 11-of-14 fairways and 14-of-17 greens in regulation. He recorded five birdies on the day, including two in his last three holes.

The four-time major winner ranked fifth in strokes gained around the greens, picking up 2.51 strokes on the field. He also gained 1.4 off the tee and 2.17 with his iron play.

“Super conservative with my strategy and my game,” he said.

“I think with my demeanor, trying to be super stoic, trying to be as even-keeled as I possibly can be. I feel like that’s the thing that has served me well in these U.S. Opens over the past few years. Just trying to be 100 percent committed to the shots.”

McIlroy knows how important a good start is in a major championship, but when it comes to the U.S. Open, it’s crucial to start well if a player wants to win the event. He has gotten off to a good start the last couple of years at this event, which has led to him finishing runner-up in 2023 and tying for fifth in 2022, seventh in 2021, and eighth in 2020.

Before that, he missed three straight cuts at the U.S. Open, as he opened with rounds of 80, 78 and 77.

“I think more so in this championship than the others—getting off to a good start is important to try and keep yourself up there,” McIlroy said.

“You need to give yourself as much of a cushion as possible, knowing what’s lurking around these corners. Certainly, the major championships that I’ve won or the ones that I’ve played well at, I’ve always seemed to get off to a good start, and it’s nice to get off to another one.”

It also helps that McIlroy loves Pinehurst No. 2 and how it plays. In 2014, he tied for 23rd here and started with a 1-over 71 that week. But the 35-year-old is already off to a better start and has his eyes on ending that decade-long major championship drought.

McIlroy will not have a long break before his second round begins as he, Scottie Scheffler, and Xander Schauffele will tee off on the 10th hole at 7:29 a.m. ET.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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