KIWI FOX, SUPERSTAR WOODS OFF FIRST-ROUND PACE AT US OPEN AT PINEHURST

Kiwi Ryan Fox and three-time champion Tiger Woods have finished well off the pace and outside the projected cutline after the opening round of the US Open at Pinehurst.

Looking to snap a 10-year Major drought, Rory McIlroy has capped a flawless outing with a birdie to join American Patrick Cantlay atop the leaderboard.

In hot pursuit of an elusive fifth Major title, world No.3 McIlroy closed his bogey-free round with a 19-foot birdie putt for a five-under-par 65 that left him and Cantlay one shot clear of Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg.

Bryson DeChambeau, who was one shot shy of forcing a playoff with Xander Schauffele at last month's PGA Championship, was a further shot back, with Frenchman Matthieu Pavon became the first player with two eagles in a US Open round at Pinehurst.

Starting on the back nine, Fox birdied the 11th hole to dip under par early, but lost three shots on 13 and 14, including a double on the latter, Turning at two over, he lost another on the second, picking a stroke up on the fifth, but handed it back on the seven to finish three-over-par 73.

At the finish of his round, Fox was tied for 110th, but his standing improved as the day wore on. He now lies 65th equal and just a shot outside the cutline - top 60, plus ties - which lies at two over. 

Woods, 48, birdied both par-five holes, but finished at four-over 74 in his opening round. He offset his birdies at 5 and 10 with six bogeys, including four on the front nine.

"I didn't hit my irons particularly well," he said. "Didn't putt that great.

"Drove it on the string all day. Unfortunately, I just didn't capitalise on it."

The 15-time Major winner is making his first US Open appearance since 2020. He won the US Open in 2000, 2002 and 2008.

Woods started on the back nine and briefly shared the lead with an 11-foot birdie putt at the 10th hole. He saved par at 12 and 13 with putts from a similar distance, before missing a birdie bid at the par-four 14th.

He missed the fairway at No.16 and carded his first bogey, after a dropped shot, then missed his second putt at the par-three 17th for another bogey.

After making the turn at one-over 36, Woods three-putted for bogey at one and missed short par putts at two and four.

"I think I three-putted, what, 2-3 times today?" Woods said. "If I clean that up, if I get a couple iron shots not as lose as I did, I'm right there at even par."

Woods set up his birdie at No.5 with a booming four-iron from the centre of the fairway, but he gave the shot back at No.8 with his sixth bogey in an 11-hole stretch.

"This is a golf course that doesn't give up a whole lot of birdies," Woods said. "It gives up a lot of bogeys and higher.

"I thought I did the one thing I needed to do today, which is drive the ball well. I did that. I just didn't capitalise on any of it."

Woods, who teed off with Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick, hit a total of 10 greens in regulation.

McIlroy showcased incredible distance control and a silky touch with his short game, and took advantage of both par-fives, including at the fifth hole, where he chipped in from 66 feet with his third shot.

The Northern Irishman got to within a shot of Cantlay with a birdie from 11 feet at the par-four 16th, nearly drew level at the par-three 17th where his birdie putt stopped just short of the hole, before cashing in at the par-four 18th.

"I felt like I controlled most aspects of my game really well," said McIlroy, whose last Major triumph came at the PGA Championship in August 2014. "Controlled myself, my mind and was very disciplined when I needed to be."

In pursuit of his maiden major, Cantlay went out early and produced a sizzling burst of late birdies to set the pace on a tricky Pinehurst No.2 layout, where only a handful of golfers were able to break par.

Competing in his 30th Major, he started on the back nine and kickstarted his day at the par-four 11th, his second, where he chipped in for birdie from a greenside bunker.

He made the turn at one under, but covered his final nine holes in a stunning four-under 31 and had a chance to go even lower, but a birdie putt from 19 feet at his final hole shaved the right edge.

"Played pretty solid most of the way," said Cantlay, who needed only 23 putts on the notoriously challenging turtleshell greens that are one of the course's greatest defence.

"I thought the golf course played pretty difficult, but drove it well. A lot of balls on the fairway... left the ball in the right spots, for the most part."

Reuters/Newshub

2024-06-13T19:33:34Z dg43tfdfdgfd