Rory McIlroy thought he had left his birdie putt short on the 18th hole and began walking towards it in frustration. To his surprise, the ball continued to roll across Pinehurst’s slick green and dropped into the cup, giving McIlroy a share of the Day 1 lead at the U.S. Open.

“Yeah, it was that kind of day for Rory, and for quite a few other players too.”

McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay both tied the record for the lowest round at a Pinehurst U.S. Open, each shooting 5-under 65s. They were not alone in making the challenging No. 2 course look manageable. Ludvig Åberg finished one stroke behind, while Matthieu Pavon and Bryson DeChambeau carded 3-under rounds.

“Nice to open up with a low one and feel like you’re right in the tournament from the first day,” McIlroy understated. This marks the tenth year of his quest to win his fifth 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.”

The morning wave seemed to have a distinct advantage. Cantlay, who teed off at 7:40 a.m., set the pace with his 5-under round. Åberg, who started his round 11 minutes later, followed suit, along with Pavon and Tony Finau (-2).

“I knew going off at 7:40 in the morning, it’s going to play maybe the easiest it will play all week,” Cantlay said, “with the lack of wind and probably the softest we will see it.”

McIlroy, who teed off at 1:14 p.m., noted the favorable conditions in the afternoon. “There was a lot of humidity early in the day, and then there was quite a lot of cloud cover the whole way through the day so it kept the golf course from getting too fiery.”

The season’s two reigning major champions, Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele, couldn’t keep up with McIlroy. Schauffele struggled early but finished at even par, while Scheffler ended the day at +1, with three bogeys and two birdies.

Cantlay, known for his role in the PGA Tour-LIV Golf negotiations and the target of European Ryder Cup fans last fall, shone on Thursday with six birdies, including four on his second nine holes, to carve out a lead on the tricky course.

Other notable players faced challenges. Justin Thomas and Sahith Theegala both finished at +7, Viktor Hovland and Will Zalatoris at +5, and Tiger Woods at +4. All will need a strong performance to make the cut.

“With the weather cooperating, it being warm, I imagine they can get the golf course as difficult as they want, with the Bermuda greens and no rain in the forecast,” Cantlay said. “I expect the golf course to play very difficult in the next few days.”

McIlroy is hopeful for clear conditions on Friday. “Selfishly for me, getting back out there in the morning (on Friday), it’s going to be nice,” he said. “Hopefully the clouds clear away and it’s a nice clear day for the guys in the afternoon.”

Åberg suggested that smart play is key at Pinehurst. “I don’t think we’re trying to chase a number, per se. I think we’re just trying to manage our way around the golf course,” he said after his round. “Pinehurst is hard as it is. It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be tricky. … All we try to do is just hit as many good shots as we can to the areas that we’re playing for, then see where that adds up.”

With the first round behind them, players can expect Pinehurst to present even greater challenges in the days ahead.



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