UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (AP) — Count Rory McIlroy among those who failed to figure out the bumpy, bouncy speed of the greens of Chambers Bay on the first day of the U.S. Open.
“It was frustrating, especially how I felt I hit the ball from tee to green,” McIlroy said after shooting a 2 over 72 in the first round on Thursday. “I thought I drove the ball great, I thought I hit my iron shots very, very well. … I felt like I gave myself enough chances out there to convert a few and then had a couple of (shorter) putts on the last few holes there. I definitely thought it was a day where you could shoot under par and I didn’t take advantage of that.”
The No. 1 player in the world went off during the morning wave, and despite starting on the easier back nine, could not capitalize on nearly perfect conditions with overcast skies and little wind coming off Puget Sound. McIlroy made two birdies and two bogeys on his first nine holes, then closed his round with birdies on two of his final three and a par on the par 5 8th.
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Even though McIlroy wasn’t perfect from tee to green, hitting 10 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, he felt it was an improvement from the way he was playing leading into the U.S. Open.
“I take confidence with the way I was striking the ball out there because that’s the way I’ve been hitting it in practice. So to be able to take that from practice onto the course is really good,” McIlroy said. “But as I said, I can hit it like that all day but if I can’t hole the putts it doesn’t matter. That’s where I need to work on a few things.”
McIlroy arrived at Chambers Bay with his game on a slide, although still the clear No. 1 in the world. After a spring of titles at the Match Play Championship and Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow to go along with a fourth place finish at the Masters, McIlroy stumbled when he returned to Europe.
He shot an 80 at Royal County Down in the Irish Open and missed his second straight cut on the European Tour. A week early, McIlroy was gone before the weekend at the BMW PGA Championship.
McIlroy believed the struggles in Europe were due to fatigue more than major problems with his game. And he seemed to back that up with his ball striking during the first round.
It was the putting that was troublesome. McIlroy was less than complimentary of the Chambers Bay greens that are all fine fescue grass, the same as the fairways, but can get a little bumpy.
“They’re not the best that I’ve ever putted on but I still feel if you make a good enough stroke and you have the right speed there is a good chance the ball will go in,” he said.
McIlroy will have the challenge on Friday of playing late in the day when the course dries out and become even firmer than the morning. Even with a later tee time, McIlroy believes a low round Is possible.
“There is no reason why I can’t go out tomorrow and shoot a similar score to what Henrik (Stenson) or Dustin (Johnson) shot out there this morning,” McIlroy said. “But again I feel like I’m very capable of it with the way I’m hitting the ball, I just need to get something going on the greens.”