US Open - Dazzling McIlroy takes charge of US Open

Fri, 17 Jun 02:07:00 2011

Rory McIlroy showed some Major resiliency at the US Open, bouncing back from a final-round meltdown at the Masters to dominate Thursday's opening round with a dazzling six-under-par 65.

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The 22-year-old Northern Irishman put on a brilliant display of ball-striking as he hit 17 of 18 greens in a bogey-free round at Congressional Country Club that put him three shots clear of the 156-man field.

"I didn't really put a foot wrong," said McIlroy. "I feel like I'm driving it well. I'm hitting my iron shots good, holing a few putts. So it's a nice combination."

Tied for second were former PGA winner Yang Yong-eun of South Korea and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa on three-under 68.

For fast-starting McIlroy, it will be all about how he finishes after taking the first-round lead for the third time in the last four majors but failing to win.

At the 2010 British Open, he fired an opening 63 at St Andrews but followed with an 80.

At Augusta National in April, he carried a four-shot lead into the final round but soared to an 80 that left him 10 shots behind winner Schwartzel.

"I took the experience from Augusta and I learned a lot from it," McIlroy said about bouncing back at Congressional. "I feel like these good starts in the majors are very much down to my preparation."

Only two other first-round leaders at a U.S. Open have enjoyed a bigger cushion -- Tommy Armour's five-shot lead after an opening 68 in 1933 at North Shore, and a four-stroke edge held by Olin Dutra after a 69 at Fresh Meadow in 1932.

McIlroy said he had given no thought about carrying over doubts from recent disappointments.

"You can't be thinking about what's happened before. You've got to just be thinking about this week," he said while adding he had been too tentative at the Masters.

"Being so tentative and trying to keep ahead of the field instead of playing a free-flowing game like I usually do," he said.

"The first three days I played aggressively. I played smartly, but I played aggressively to my targets and aggressively to the spots I wanted to hit.

"Then going into the Sunday, I started to play defensively, and that's when things can go wrong."

McIlroy said Jack Nicklaus gave him a pep talk two weeks ago at the Memorial tournament he hosts.

"He just said he would kick my backside," McIlroy said about how the 71-year-old Golden Bear tried to prod him into finishing strong to win his maiden major.

"He said to me, 'I'm expecting big things from you.' It's a nice pressure to have, knowing that the greatest player ever at the moment thinks that you're going to do pretty good."

Reuters

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