Rory McIlroy in contention at US Open

Rory McIlroy is in contention at the US Open following the first round at Torrey Pines after a strong finish.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 10:52 am

McIlroy carded a one under par 70, finishing his round with a birdie at the last.

Brooks Koepka made an impressive start to his bid for a third US Open victory in five years as Phil Mickelson’s hopes of completing the career grand slam suffered a massive blow.

Koepka, who won the title in 2017 and 2018 and was second in 2019, carded an opening two-under-par 69 at Torrey Pines to lie two shots behind clubhouse leader Russell Henley.

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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland putts on the fourth green during the first round of the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 17, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was also four under and facing a birdie putt on his penultimate hole when play was suspended due to darkness.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello were a shot off the lead, but Mickelson struggled to a 75 a month after becoming the oldest champion in major history with his shock victory in the US PGA.

Starting on the back nine, Koepka birdied the 12th, 17th and 18th to reach the turn in 33 before another birdie on the second took him into the outright lead on four under.

A wild tee shot to the third cost the 31-year-old his first bogey of the day and another shot went on the seventh after a pulled drive which finished at the base of a picnic bench where spectators were eating lunch.

“You can’t win it today but you can definitely lose it,” Koepka said. “It was nice to get off to a good start, putted well, drove it well on the back nine, my front.

Pretty pleased. Not the best, but I’ll definitely take it.”

Also starting on the back nine after a 90-minute delay due to fog, Mickelson dropped a shot on the 10th when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker, his par attempt catching the edge of the hole and spinning out.

The six-time major winner was even more unfortunate on the 13th when, after taking a penalty drop from a bush, his fourth shot to the 613-yard par five bounced once before hitting the pin and rebounding off the green.

Mickelson did well to limit the damage to a single shot by chipping to six feet and holing the putt, but another shot went on the 15th after an errant drive.

A birdie on the 17th stopped the rot and Mickelson also found the green on the par-five 18th in two, but could only three-putt from 60 feet for par.

Pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm is two shots off the lead following a 69, with Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, Richard Bland, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton all shooting 70 and Marcus Armitage making an impressive tournament debut with a level-par 71.

Open champion Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood finished one over par but Justin Rose struggled to a 78.

Rose did at least ensure that his group – containing McIlroy and world number one Dustin Johnson – were able to finish by running to the 18th and teeing off before play was suspended, almost hitting Sergio Garcia up ahead in the fairway.

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