Boasting a fast start to the 122nd US Open – hosted at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts – disaster struck on its fourteenth hole, the fifth hole, when McIlroy tee shot towards a bunker on the right side of the fairway.
Faced with an awkward lie – the ball sat amongst tall grass at the tip of the bunker – things went from bad to worse as the 33-year-old managed to escape the bunker to see his ball fizzle into the sand from another a few meters ahead.
McIlroy looked desperately at his feet before slamming his club into the sand twice, with a technique mimicking a bunker exit shot – albeit aggressive.
Fittingly, the world number three then showed off his flawless technique with his subsequent effort out of the middle of the next bunker, the ball crashing onto the green and rolling narrowly past the hole.
Sinking his putt to save par, McIlroy’s great escape highlighted an impressive first round that left him tied for the lead at three under 67 when he returned to the clubhouse.
Two under the back nine after starting on the 10th hole, he looked set to end his round as the outright leader with back-to-back birdies before the last tee.
However, a clumsy approach shot through the long grass on the final par four hole left McIlroy needing another miracle to make the par. Throwing his club in anger, the reaction mimicked that of his fourteenth hole but the result was not, McIlroy being forced to end the day with his first bogey of the round.
“Mentally, I’m in a good place”
The Northern Irishman is chasing his 22nd PGA Tour win and fifth major triumph at the US Open, a tournament that won him his first major triumph in 2011. McIlroy had won the British Open and the PGA Championship twice at the end of 2014 but has not won a major since.
“Playing 72 holes at the US Open is like playing under pressure all the time even though the tournament only really starts on the weekend,” McIlroy told Sky Sports after his round.
“I think mentally I’m in a good position, which I showed today with some of the normal saves and trying to keep going.”
He shares the lead with Sweden’s David Lingmerth and England’s Callum Tarren, with several big names yet to make it through their first round in Boston.
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