Rory McIlroy shows fiery side in 'really solid start' in US Open

Rory McIlroy had fire in his belly at Brookline as he made a promising start in his bid to rewrite the US Open record books.

No player has triumphed in the USGA event the week immediately after winning on the PGA Tour, as McIlroy did for a 21st time in the Canadian Open in Toronto last Sunday.

Taking up where he left off there, though, a three-under-par 67 was exactly the opening salvo he was looking for at The Country Club in the suburbs of Boston.

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“Yeah, a really solid start,” said McIlroy, the 2011 winner, of his day’s work, which left him lying joint-second, one shot behind Canadian Adam Hadwin. “You'd take 67 around this golf course any day.”

BRory McIlroy stands on the ninth green during round one of the 122nd US Open at The Country Club in Brookline. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.

The Northern Irishman had gone into the Canadian Open with a season average outside 20 feet with approaches from 50-125 yards. In his last two rounds, that has improved to inside eight feet.

Putts are also dropping more frequently than has been the case since the most recent of his four major victories in 2014. On this occasion, four were for birdies while others were par saves that were huge in terms of momentum.

“Even though I'm standing up here slightly frustrated that I bogeyed the last (his sole dropped shot), it's a great start to the tournament,” he added after matching morning efforts from Englishman Callum Tarren, Swede David Lingmerth and American Joel Dahmen before South African MJ Daffue also posted the same score later in the day.

“I felt like I did most things well today. I certainly putted well, I hit the ball in the right spots, and I hit a lot of greens, gave myself plenty of chances. Just basically did everything that you need to do at a US Open.

Adam Hadwin reacts on the ninth green during round one of the 122nd US Open at The Country Club in Brookline. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

“Yeah, overall really pleased about the start. That's now two majors in a row (having opened with a 65 to lead after day one in last month’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa) that I've started well, and hopefully just keep going from here.”

During his barren run in majors, McIlroy had been on a run of making slow starts, but that trend looks to have been bucked, which also augurs well for him in next month’s 150th Open at St Andrews.

“You feel like you're right in the tournament from the start of the week, which is nice,” he said of coming fast out of the blocks once again. “I'm going into tomorrow with the mindset of let's keep it going, rather than where is the cut line or whatever.

“If you don't get off to a great start, those thoughts start to creep in, ‘okay, what do I need to just be here for the weekend’. It's certainly a different mindset when you get off to a good start, and I've just got to keep it going.”

Callum Tarren waves to the crowd during the first round one of the 122nd US Open in Boston. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

On two occasions, McIlroy showed his fiery side. At the fifth, he slammed his club into the sand twice after he could only hack his second shot from thick rough into a bunker a few yards in front of him.

He managed to salvage that situation by getting up and down for a par, which he greeted with a little fist bump, but not after tossing his club to the ground in frustration after missing the green at the ninth - his final hole.

Though admitting that the group in front being “slow” had contributed to what happened at the fifth, it was more down to the type of lie that players only seem to come across in this event.

“It's hard not to get frustrated because I'm walking up there going like, just come back into the bunker. The thickest rough on the course is around the edges of the bunkers,” he said.

“So I was sort of cursing the USGA, but it's one of those things it happens here. You just have to accept it. I gave the sand a couple of whacks because I'd already messed it up so it wasn't like it was much more work for Harry (Diamond, his caddie), and then I just reset and played a decent bunker shot, and then it was really nice to hole that putt.

“But, yeah, you're going to encounter things this week that you don't usually come across the other weeks of the year, and you just have to try to accept them as best you can.”

Helped by a burst of five birdies in six holes on his front nine, Hadwin carded his lowest score in a major championship. “I don’t think you can ask for a better start to a US Open,” he said, having earned his spot through a final qualifier in Dallas.

“I did a lot of good things. Got a nice run there midway through the front. Then I kind of just held down the fort there the last little bit. Some key up-and-downs.”

Darlington man Tarren, who is 445th in world rankings, is playing his first season on the PGA Tour and appearing in just his second US Open after also playing at Pebble Beach in 2019.

“I'm kind of pinching myself,” he admitted after coming home in 31, having followed three birdies and a bogey with an eagle-3 at the eighth - his 17th. “I didn't realise it was on the top of the leaderboard until I pulled that final put on the ninth hole.

“I started off a little bit shaky. I won't lie, I was nervous. I had, I think, 25 feet on my first hole and three-putted it, which wasn't great, but then after three or four holes I kind of settled into the round.”

Open champion Collin Morikawa was out in three-under but back in two-over as he opened with a 69, which matched the effort of Jon Rahm, last year’s winner at Torrey Pines, in the same group.

“It's very hard,” said Rahm in reply to being asked what he’d learned about the course. “Honestly, the first five holes when we had no wind, I was thinking we're going to blow the roof off this place.

“But a well-designed golf course is always difficult. When the crosswinds started coming, it was tough.”

As both Phil Mickelson and Tony Jacklin’s son Sean, the sole Scot playing in the 122nd edition. discovered in the afternoon wave, carding matching 78s.

Matt Fizpatrick, who won the US Amateur on the same course in 2013, opened with a 68, as did former champions Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose.

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