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Chase after McIlroy begins at Congressional
McIlroy came into Friday’s round after opening with a 6-under-par 65 to take a three-shot lead over Y.E. Yang and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. It’s the biggest first-round lead at the U.S. Open in 35 years.
The 22-year-old player from Northern Ireland has held the first-round lead in three of the last four majors. Two months ago, he had a four-shot lead heading into Sunday at the Masters but melted down and shot 80.
In the first round at Congressional, there were no signs of a letdown. McIlroy hit 17 greens and made six birdies without a single bogey.
McIlroy had an early tee time Friday and could only hope conditions suited his game as well as they did in the first round. He scored 65 or better at a major for the third time since the first round of last year’s British, when he tied the major scoring record with a 63.
“It doesn’t feel like a typical U.S. Open, for some reason,” McIlroy said. “The golf course is going to get harder and it’s going to get firmer and it’s going to get trickier, but I still feel that it’s very playable and fair. If you don’t hit a fairway, you’ve still got a chance to hit it on the green and give yourself a chance for birdie.”
Sergio Garcia, British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, American Ryan Palmer, Kyung-tae Kim, Scott Hend and Alexandre Rocha were tied for fourth at 2 under. Rocha had Friday’s first tee time and made par on No. 1.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell was part of a group of 11 at 1 under.
Nobody will start the second round in as good a spot as McIlroy, but he knows this is only the beginning.
“Well, there’s definitely no relief in it,” he said. “It’s always nice to shoot a good first round at any tournament, let alone a major. But no relief. I know I’m playing well. I know this golf course.”
Playing on his 41st birthday Thursday, Mickelson was wild from start to finish. He’ll be looking to improve on a 3-over 74 that could have been much worse.
“This actually turned out to be a great day,” Mickelson said after his first round, “because I played horrific.”
Also looking for a turnaround were the world’s top three players. Luke Donald (74), Lee Westwood (75) and Martin Kaymer (74) combined for 17 bogeys and one double. They had afternoon tee times and will know where McIlroy stands before they head out to the course.
“I don’t know if it says that I’ve just got a very short memory or, I don’t know,” McIlroy said, in explaining his solid first round. “I took the experience from Augusta, and I learned a lot from it. But I feel like these good starts in the majors are very much down to how I prepare for them.”
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