Berliner Tageblatt - McIlroy hopes to build on momentum with early US Open start

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McIlroy hopes to build on momentum with early US Open start
McIlroy hopes to build on momentum with early US Open start / Photo: © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

McIlroy hopes to build on momentum with early US Open start

Co-leader Rory McIlroy hoped to build momentum with a strong early start as he teed off in Friday's second round of the US Open after a bogey-free opening 65 at Pinehurst.

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Third-ranked McIlroy, trying to win an elusive fifth career major and his first since 2014, was in Friday's fifth group off the 10th tee alongside world number one Scottie Scheffler and second-ranked Xander Schauffele, both with major titles this year.

On a day when only 15 of 156 players cracked par, McIlroy went five-under without a bogey to equal ninth-ranked Patrick Cantlay, an American chasing his first major triumph, for the 18-hole lead.

The 35-year-old from Northern Ireland was a winner the past three times he began a major with a bogey-free round, taking titles at the 2014 British Open, 2012 PGA Championship and 2011 US Open.

It was his sixth opening round of 65 or lower at a major.

"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," said McIlroy.

Should McIlroy collect his first major title since the 2014 PGA Championship this week, it would mark the longest gap between wins for any player in US Open history, his 13 years breaking the record 11 shared by Julius Boros and Hale Irwin.

Just as McIlroy has been patient through 20 top-10 major finishes without a win over the past decade, he was patient over a formidable Pinehurst layout that offered dome-shaped elevated greens plus sand and weeds when he strayed off the fairway.

McIlroy birdied two of the last three holes to grab a share of the lead after keeping calm through five consecutive pars.

"I felt like my patience was rewarded there with birdies on two of the last three holes," McIlroy said. "It was really nice to finish like that, a nice bit of momentum going into the morning round."

McIlroy has finished in the top-10 in his past five US Open starts, improving his position each year up to last year's runner-up showing behind fourth-ranked American Wyndham Clark.

Cantlay, who will be among Friday's afternoon starters, produced his best major start and led a major round for the first time in his career. His best major result was third at the 2019 PGA Championship.

Sweden's sixth-ranked Ludvig Aberg was third on 66. He finished second at the Masters in April in his major debut. He will also make a late start in round two.

Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion and last month's runner-up at the PGA Championship, shared fourth on 67 with France's Matthieu Pavon.

DeChambeau, among 12 players from Saudi-backed LIV Golf in the field, will like McIlroy take a morning stroll through the North Carolina pine trees. He starts in the sixth group off the first tee.

Pavon, seeking his first major crown, is in the last handful of afternoon groups off the 10th tee.

A huge pack on 70 included Schauffele, two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and five-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

Scheffler was on 71 with reigning British Open champion Brian Harman.