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16th Jun 2022

Rory McIlroy shows uncharacteristic flash of anger before sinking huge putts

Patrick McCarry

Rory McIlroy

The four-time major winner would have been targeting birdie on his 14th hole. He ended up needing a big putt to get par.

Rory McIlroy had a great opening round to the recent US PGA, but his record in first rounds of majors, this past eight years, shows it is usually his majors weak spot.

On Thursday, at The Country Club in Brookline, McIlroy got off to a fine start over his opening nine holes at the US Open. He started off, on the 10th hole, with six straight pars before birdieing his seventh and ninth holes to go -2.

With the likes of Stewart Hagestad, David Lingmerth and Matthew NeSmith all getting as low as -3, at different stages, McIlroy was right in the mix as he headed into his final five holes.

The fifth hole [McIlroy’s 14th of his round] had a reachable green, with a solid tee shot, but the Northern Irishman found the long grass on the fringes of a bunker, within 60 yards of the flag-stick. The rough was tricky and McIlroy needed a solid connection to make the green.

Unfortunately, the connection was slightly off and the ball went into the next bunker over. Facing what could be a bogey or double bogey, if he did not make a great up-and-down, McIlroy knew he had erred. There were two sullen thumps of the sand with his wedge, uncharacteristic for a player known for being a relatively steady competitor.

Rory McIlroy on damage control

With his third shot, from the bunker he had recently landed in, Rory McIlroy had a good chip and run, but the ball scooted on a big longer than he would have wanted.

That left him with a 15-foot putt to save par. McIlroy steeled himself and did just that. His fist pump celebration showed you just how much it meant to save par.

Finishing in style

English golfer Callum Tarren, soon after, set the clubhouse lead on -3 and McIlroy went close, but not close enough, to joining him on his 15th hole. His birdie putt was just short, though.

One hole later and the 32-year-old was in a tie for the lead. A feature of his Canadian Open victory, last weekend, was his putting from long range. So it proved on the par-three sixth hole [his 16th] as he sunk a 25-foot birdie putt to join the leaders.

On the next hole, he hit a superb approach, from the centre of the fairway, and rolled in a 10-footer to go into the solo lead, at -4. If he can keep up the putting form from Canada, and his first round, he should be in contention over the weekend. The only blip of the day came on 18, with bogey, but he finished tied for the lead.

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