McIlroy in contention as three set clubhouse lead

Rory McIlroy

US Open, early first-round leaderboard
-5 R Fowler (US), X Schauffele (US); -4 S Piercy (US); -3 R McIlroy (NI)*, S Straka (US)*, E Grillo (Arg);
Selected others:-2 J Rahm (Spa)*, G McDowell (NI); -1 T Hatton (Eng); Level D Johnson (US), D Willett (Eng)*;+1 L Donald (Eng)*,

Rory McIlroy is two shots off the early clubhouse lead at the US Open in benign day one conditions at Pebble Beach.

The Northern Irishman, winner in 2011, recovered from a bogey on his opening hole to finish with a three-under 68.

American Xander Schauffele had an eagle at the last to join compatriot Rickie Fowler and South Africa’s Louis Oostuizen in the lead on five under.

Brooks Koepka, who is chasing a third successive US Open title, is among the later starters with Tiger Woods.

World number one Koepka tees off at 21:47 BST, with 2019 Masters winner Woods out alongside fellow former champions Jordan Spieth and England’s Justin Rose at 22:09.

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who won the US Open at Pebble in 2010, was the only one of the early starters to post a bogey-free round and at two under he is one stroke ahead of Tyrrell Hatton.

Englishman Hatton, who recorded his best finish at a US Open when he finished joint sixth last year, climbed to four under par without dropping a shot in his first 15 holes, but finished with three successive bogeys.

McIlroy makes fast start

McIlroy was among the early starters and he made the most of benign conditions in California as he began his round from the 10th tee alongside Spain’s Jon Rahm and Australian Marc Leishman.

The world number three has carded opening rounds in the 60s in all four of his major victories, going on to win the 2011 US Open by eight strokes at Congressional, but the last of those wins came five years ago.

He brushed off a dropped shot at his first hole to birdie the 13th and par-three 17th, as well as scrambling for par at 18, as he hit the turn at one under.

McIlroy then holed from 12 feet for his third birdie of the day at the second and immediately backed it up with another to move to three under par.

It could have been three in a row had the 30-year-old’s birdie putt not stayed up after clipping the cup at the fourth, before McIlroy saved another par on the par-three fifth by rolling in from the fringes of the green with the flag still in after a duffed chip from the rough.

McIlroy, who started his wins at the 2011 US Open, 2012 US PGA Championship, 2014 Open Championship and 2014 US PGA with rounds of 65, 67, 66 and 66 respectively, said he was “really pleased” to open with a 68.

“It’s tough starting on that 10th in the morning,” he told Sky Sports. “I came back well and didn’t make a bogey.

“It’s benign conditions, very soft for a US Open, so you needed to get out there and shoot something in the 60s. I’m happy with my day’s work.”

Playing partner Rahm opened his US Open campaign with three successive birdies but eventually finished at two under alongside Leishman.

American Scott Piercy had set the pace by posting a four-under-par 67 that included five birdies, an eagle, a double bogey and further bogey at the 18th.

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