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Rory McIlroy in US Open contention after final birdie on 18th in fading light

·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy put himself in contention at the US Open by running up the 18th to tap in a birdie to finish his opening round three shots off the lead before bad light stopped play.

A total of 36 players ended day one having failed to finish including joint leader Louis Oosthuizen, who with two holes still to play is four-under par with American Russell Henley, the clubhouse leader.

Others in contention were Francesco Molinari showing a return to form a stroke off the lead as well as a high-profile group of players on two-under, among them Brooks Koepka, John Rahm and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.

But on a day where play was delayed by 90 minutes because of the fog, McIlroy’s 100-yard run down the last caught the eye to complete his round on a day when he battled to stay in contention.

Of that final putt, the Northern Irishman said: “The birdie was awesome. That putt was pretty. I was sort of, like, I think it’s straight, I’ll hit it straight and we’ll see. But yeah it was nice to get in, get an extra hour of sleep tonight and it was a bonus to birdie it as well.”

For McIlroy, it ended his run of bad opening rounds in the Majors. At the Masters, he shot a 76, which would eventually lead to him missing the cut, and then his 75 at the recent PGA Championship meant he was never in contention.

He added: “It was good. I got off to a really good start with a birdie at the first and I played well. I didn’t miss a green until the seventh hole. That’s the key around here, you can get away with some wayward shots off the tee, and I did today but I was able to recover well and hit greens. And if you can just keep hitting greens out there, that’s the name of the game and I did that well.”

Oosthuizen knows he has the chance to take a first-round lead with two holes remaining of his round at Torrey Pines.

“I just enjoy playing really tough golf courses,” he said. “I think somehow I focus a little bit better when I play those courses knowing that the margin for error is really small.”

Home favourite Phil Mickelson, bidding for a clean sweep of the Majors after his shock PGA win, had a tough opening day on his home course with a 75.

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