WHEN Y.E. YANG CAME HOME in 68 strokes earlier in the day, I thought the score might hold up for the first-round lead. But then along came Rory McIlroy who played what he termed “stress-free golf.” (I didn’t know there was such a thing at the U.S. Open.)
The supremely talented Irishman blitzed the difficult Blue Course, carding a 6-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead over Yang and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who also posted a 68.
Here’s what McIlroy said in a “flash” interview immediately after his round.
Q. That was spectacular, six birdies, no bogeys. Talk about your experiences in this round.Meanwhile, McIlroy’s playing partners in the marquee grouping struggled to post a good number. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson shot 74 and 75, respectively. With a ball in the water at the challenging par-3 10th (his first hole of the day), Mickelson’s round and 41st birthday got off to a rocky start. Lefty made a double bogey and had to steady himself the rest of the way.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was a good round of golf. I didn’t really put a foot wrong. The only mistake I made was missing the green on 14, and I held a nice sort of 15 footer for par there. Apart from that it was pretty much stress free golf. It was nice. 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.
Q. Is the course set up perfectly for you?
RORY McILROY: When I got here last week on Wednesday, I felt like the golf course set up good for me. It sort of worked out that way.
Q. I don’t know if you ever get comfortable on a U.S. Open golf course, but you looked comfortable, did you feel that way?
RORY McILROY: I did, yeah, I felt very comfortable. I said this in the press conference Tuesday. It doesn’t feel like a typical U.S. Open, for some reason. The golf course is going to get harder and it’s going to get firmer and it’s going to get trickier, but I still feel that it’s very playable and fair. If you don’t hit a fairway, you’ve still got a chance to hit it on the green and give yourself a chance for birdie. I like the way they’ve set up the golf course this year.
The boys had a huge gallery, as you might imagine. I followed along for a few holes, but it was difficult to get a good look at the action.
In addition to McIlroy, Yang and Schwartzel, six players broke 70 in scoring conditions made easier by overcast skies and relatively cool temperatures. British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia are among the group of players who are at 3-under par after 69s.
−The Armchair Golfer
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