McIlroy shares U.S. Open lead with Cantlay after bogey-free start

June 14, 2024 11:23 am

[Source: Reuters]

Rory McIlroy, looking to snap a 10-year major drought, capped a flawless outing with a birdie to join Patrick Cantlay atop the first-round U.S. Open leaderboard on Thursday at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

On a day when only 15 golfers in the 156-player field broke par, McIlroy closed his bogey-free round with a 19-foot birdie putt for a five-under-par 65 that left him level with Cantlay and one shot clear of Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg.

Bryson DeChambeau, who was one shot shy of forcing a playoff with Xander Schauffele at last month’s PGA Championship, was a further shot back with Frenchman Matthieu Pavon, who became the first player with two eagles in a U.S. Open round at Pinehurst.

Article continues after advertisement

McIlroy, seeking an elusive fifth major title, showcased incredible distance control and a silky touch with his short game and took advantage of both par-fives, including at the fifth hole where he chipped in from 66 feet with his third shot.

The Northern Irishman got to within a shot of Cantlay with a birdie from 11 feet at the par-four 16th, nearly drew level at the par-three 17th where his birdie putt stopped just short of the hole before cashing in at the par-four 18th.

“I felt like I controlled most aspects of my game really well,” said McIlroy, whose last major triumph came at the PGA Championship in August 2014. “Controlled myself, my mind and was very disciplined when I needed to be.”

Cantlay, in pursuit of his maiden major, produced a burst of late birdies to set the early pace on a layout that will test players’ mental discipline all week given its tricky greens and fairways that bleed into sandy waste areas full of wire grass.

Cantlay, competing in his 30th major, started on the back nine and kick-started his day at the par-four 11th, his second, where he chipped in for birdie from a greenside bunker.