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McIlroy and Cantlay start strong at the US Open, while Scheffler struggles

Of the 156 participants, the only ones who avoided a bogey were the Northern Irishman and Spaniard Sergio García, who reached the top 10 at the start of his 25th consecutive U.S. Open.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland


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(AFP) Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy and American Patrick Cantlay took the lead in the U.S. Open in the first round on Thursday with a considerable distance from top-ranked Scottie Scheffler.

Cantlay, who is chasing his first major trophy, set the pace early on the challenging Pinehurst course in North Carolina with a sensational card of 65 strokes, five under par. This performance allowed him to command until the subsequent emergence of McIlroy, who equaled his record in one round with five birdies and no bogeys.

Of the 156 participants, the only ones who did not record a bogey were McIlroy and Spaniard Sergio García, who broke into the top 10 at the start of his 25th consecutive U.S. Open.

As the world No. 3, McIlroy looks to contend for his fifth major title that has eluded him since his extraordinary 2014 campaign.

McIlroy inaugurated that trophy count precisely at the U.S. Open in 2011 and later added two PGA Championship crowns (2011 and 2014) and one British Open (2014).

"I'm delighted with the start," he congratulated himself. "As the week progresses the course will be a little faster and more intense, but right now there are opportunities and, luckily, I have been able to take advantage of them."

One shot behind the duo was the young Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg, and two shots behind is Frenchman Matthieu Pavon and American Bryson DeChambeau, representing the Saudi LIV Golf circuit.

DeChambeau wants to capture his second U.S. Open trophy just a month after coming close to winning the PGA Championship, a crown that ended up in the hands of his compatriot Xander Schauffele, who dreams of being the first to win back-to-back majors since 2015.

This Thursday, Schauffele could only close his first round at even par at Pinehurst, where the favorite Scottie Scheffler was no better.

The world No. 1 finished with 71 strokes (+1), sitting in in 34th place, and will need to recover with extraordinary play to win his first U.S. Open trophy on Sunday.

The New Jersey native entered the tournament with five titles already his pocket, a feat not seen in more than four decades.

After the break from the PGA Championship, where he was the protagonist of an unusual arrest in a traffic incident, Scheffler returned to his winning ways on Sunday in the Memorial Tournament.

Tiger's weak start

The American public cheered on its idol, Tiger Woods, in another disappointing day.

The 48-year-old American got off to a good start with a birdie and five pars, but then made six bogeys that led him to finish at 74 strokes (+4) in a distant 88th place.

"It's not where I wanted to be," he acknowledged. "I didn't make good putts and I ended up that far away because I wasn't as sharp as I needed to be."

This result seems to bring another fierce fight for Tiger on Friday to make the cut, as happened in the last two tournaments of the year.

Woods, winner of 15 major tournaments, three of them at the U.S. Open, is weighed down by serious injuries to his right leg resulting from a 2021 car accident.

García shines in his 25th US Open

Another veteran, Spaniard Sergio García, was the face of the day in Pinehurst enjoying his 25th consecutive U.S. Open.

The winner of the 2017 Masters relived his best times with a solid round of 69 strokes (-1) in which he added one birdie and no bogey and left him in ninth position.

"Hitting under par at the U.S. Open, which is a championship I love, is always great. Doing it without bogeys is even better. It is something that I respect a lot and of which I am very proud," stressed García, 44 years old.

"I have had the pleasure of playing in this championship 25 years in a row, not many people get it, so I am very happy to be here," he highlighted.

García is the biggest Spanish name in the tournament with the last minute absence of Jon Rahm due to injury.

Within the Latin American delegation, Argentine Emiliano Grillo started with even par 70 strokes, putting him in 16th place.

Grillo shared that place with Americans Collin Morikawa and Brooks Koepka, both previous winners of major tournaments.

Colombian Nico Echavarria finished at 72 strokes (+2), in 50th place.