US Open: McIlroy matches early pace set by Cantlay

By Sports Desk June 13, 2024

Patrick Cantlay set the early pace on day one of the US Open at Pinehurst, with Rory McIlroy later matching his score to share the lead.

McIlroy, part of the headline group with world number one, Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele, had the chance to equal the lead on the 17th but missed his birdie shot by inches.

However, he held his nerve on the final hole to finish a bogey-free five-under 65, giving him a share of the lead with Cantlay.

A tough round for Scheffler saw him card a one-over 71, while Schauffele missed his birdie putt on the final hole to finish on level par.

Five-time major winner Brooks Koepka briefly led after 10 holes, but a sloppy finish saw him finish on level par, with Collin Morikawa matching his score shortly after.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods made a promising start with a birdie on the 10th, his first hole of the round, but he struggled as he went on, finishing with a four-over 74.

Bryson DeChambeau was among the later starters in North Carolina.

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    Brian Harman is certain of his capabilities to defend The Open Championship trophy at Royal Troon, where the American expects crowd heckling to calm down after last year's incidents.

    Harman clinched a maiden major title last year at Royal Liverpool after coasting to a six-shot victory for his first PGA Tour triumph in six years.

    The world number 13 hopes to reunite with the famed Claret Jug in Scotland, though expects the course – and the spectators – to pose a different challenge to last year's success.

    Harman described the abuse as "unrepeatable", with many mocking his pre-shot routines and heckling in an all-round attempt to put off the soon-to-be champion.

    "It doesn't bother me," Harman told Monday's pre-tournament press conference when asked about the incidents at the 151st Open.

    "I'm ready to take whatever in my stride. I'm here to play the best golf that I possibly can. That's my main focus.

    "I've always loved the fans over here. I've spoken a bunch of times about how I find them the most knowledgeable fans of any that we play in front of.

    "I kind of chalk last year up as more of an anomaly than anything else."

    The 37-year-old finished tied for 21st in the Scottish Open, a warm-up event for the major at Royal Troon, but has three top-10 finishes in the PGA Tour in 2024.

    Having shared fifth place at The Sentry, second at the Players Championship and ninth in the Travelers Championship, Harman is in decent form.

    He is now looking to become the first player since Padraig Harrington in 2007 and 2008 to win back-to-back Open titles.

    "Anytime that you become a major champion it certainly elevates your status in the game, elevates the way that you're perceived in the game," Harman added.

    "I try to take all of that in my stride, but at the same time understand that the golf is the most important thing, and I've tried to improve my golf game and get it in a place where I can maybe contend in some more majors down the road.

    "My stats this year have been really good. My ball striking has been as good as it's ever been. The only thing I haven't done well this year is I haven't putted especially well. So I'm just kind of waiting for it all to line up correctly.

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  • The Open: McIlroy looking to respond after Nadal and Jordan support following Pinehurst setback The Open: McIlroy looking to respond after Nadal and Jordan support following Pinehurst setback

    Rory McIlroy insists his U.S. Open capitulation is behind him as he aims to respond at The Open Championship, backed by support from two sporting stars.

    The Northern Irishman collapsed in remarkable fashion at Pinehurst, missing two simple putts as Bryson DeChambeau sneaked in to profit and win the major.

    Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal and NBA legend Michael Jordan both reached out to McIlroy in the aftermath of that disappointment.

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    The four-time major champion scored bogeys on three of his final four holes during his U.S. Open downfall.

    "Was it a great opportunity to win a major? Absolutely," McIlroy added of his short-putting nightmare. "It hurt and in the moment it was tough, terrible.

    "I'd say people would be surprised to see how quickly I got over it and moved on."

    McIlroy subsequently took a short break before returning at the Scottish Open last week, finishing tied for fourth place at the Renaissance Club.

    "Maybe the one drawback from me not talking [to media] afterwards was that you got three weeks of speculation," McIlroy said, referring to his swift exit at Pinehurst. 

    "He should have done this, should have done that but we will never know because he didn't say. I trust the people around me. I don't need to go looking for external counsel.

    "If the tournament ended after 68 holes, people would be calling me the best golfer in the world. You have to be an eternal optimist. Say you play 25 events a year and win three of those. You are one of the best players in history. We lose way more than we win.

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    McIlroy was in contention to end his 10-year major drought at Pinehurst last month, only to miss two putts from inside four feet on the last three holes of his final round.

    Those missed opportunities allowed Bryson DeChambeau to edge him out by one shot and claim his second U.S. Open title, having previously triumphed in 2020.

    McIlroy finished in a share of fourth at the Scottish Open last week, four shots behind winner Robert MacIntyre, as he again struggled on the greens.

    Speaking after the conclusion of his final round at The Renaissance Club, the world number two said getting his putting game into shape had been his main aim for the week.

    "The reason that I like to play the week before the majors is to knock a little bit of rust off and try to get sharp, and I feel like I've done that this week," McIlroy told the PGA Tour website.

    "If I can get the putter to cooperate and get the speed of the greens down... I feel like I'll be in a really good spot."

    Reflecting on his overall showing, McIlroy added: "I felt like the ball-striking was there pretty much every day.

    "There were a few scrappy bits here and there, but overall, it was a good week to see where my game is heading into next week, especially on the back of three weeks off.

    "Pleased with the week with one eye on trying to defend here, but obviously an eye on trying to get prepared for Troon as well."

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