Rory McIlroy is hoping lightning doesn’t strike twice, at least when it comes to blowing leads in major golf tournaments. The 22-year old from Northern Ireland infamously blew the Masters Tournament earlier in 2011 and has now built up a sizable lead at the US Open after the first round on opening day on June 16th. In fact, McIlroy’s three-shot lead after the first round is the biggest since way back in 1933 when Tommy Armour of Scotland was up by five.
McIlroy hit a six-under par, bogey-free round of 65 to give him a three-shot lead over YE Yang of Korea and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa at the Congressional in Maryland. McIlroy is very familiar with the South African, as it was Schwartzel who beat him for the Masters in April after blowing a four-shot lead and ending up 10 behind after a round of 80.
The Masters was just over two months ago, but McIlroy said it’s a thing of the past now and there’s no point crying about it, but he definitely learned something from his meltdown. He added that he’s focusing on this tournament and how to best prepare for it. He said he analysed aspects of the Masters, but stopped thinking about it about a week later, feeling that he tried to stay in front of the pack back in April instead of just playing his usual free-flowing golf game.
McIlroy was naturally happy with his first US Open round, but realizes things are going to get harder as the tournament progresses. He feels that anything between par and four under will give him a good chance at winning the event on June 19th.
He said it’s nice that everything fell into place for him in the opening round, but it was still tricky. He credits keeping the ball in the fairway and finding the greens as one of the main reasons for his success.
However, McIlroy has always been a fast starter. He had the same score after the opening round at the Masters and last year at St Andrews he hit a first-round 63 to tie a Major golfing record. However, he followed that up with an 80.
If he can find some consistency in his game McIlroy will be a favourite to take the US Open. He said his ego has been boosted by Jack Nicklaus who told him he was expecting McIlroy to perform well at the tournament. He said Nicklaus told him not to worry too much about making mistakes and make sure he doesn’t give the event away, make somebody else earn a victory.
After the first round, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald were tied for 62nd after rounds of 74. Lee Westwood hit a 75 and was tied for 84th. Graeme McDowell, the defending US Open champion, hit a 70 and was tied for 10th spot.