US Open: Taming the Winged Foot beast will be a tall order

It's love at first sight as smitten McIlroy hails 'wonderful' Winged Foot

It's his first lead in a major since he won the 2017 PGA Championship. The next pitch was too aggressive, settling 10 feet above the hole.

It will be tough, but the players are equipped to deal with anything Winged Foot's challenging greens and dogleg holes throw at them.

It started with a bogey at the 1st and a lost ball and a double bogey on the 3rd before he railed in three birdies in a row to get back to even-par.

After being postponed for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic that reshuffled the world golf schedule, the Open teed off as the second major of the year and part of a 2020-21 campaign that started only last week.

At the same time 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and newly minted PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa will tee off on the first hole.

Rory McIlroy, who has been struggling to get off to a decent start in the majors, opened with a 67 and tried to contain his disappointment it wasn't lower.

USGA chief executive Mike Davis added: "I think that looking back during the set-up in 2006, and I suspect that's probably what we'll do this week, we kept looking at ways (of) how do we make the golf course a little bit easier because it's such a great test". The Spaniard by way of Arizona State has already notched the two toughest tournaments this year - the Memorial at Muirfield Village and the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, holding off loaded fields in both - and is poised for his major breakthrough.

"U.S. Open DNA is about placing a premium on accuracy off the teeing area, we think that's important", this week's course setup boss John Bodenhamer said on Wednesday.

"I three-putted for par on six". His tee shot got caught in a tree and he had to return to the tee to play his third.

Patrick Reed and Will Zalatoris made a hole-in-one on No. 7, and Zalatoris somehow missed another ace on No. 13.

Spieth has not won in three years. He was eliminated after the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs. And then he missed the cut last week in the Safeway Open.

At the top of his game, McIlroy is one of the world's best off the tee, smashing towering drives that sail past his playing partners' shots into the middle of fairways.

Justin Thomas led the way with six birdies and only one bogey from a bad lie in the bunker, finishing with a 25-foot birdie putt that he barely touched for a 5-under 65.

This year's venue, Winged Foot in NY, is widely regarded as one of the toughest golf courses around, with Tiger Woods saying it's "up there with Oakmont and Carnoustie".

Speaking ahead of the start of the tournament, he said his daughter's arrival means he can "go home and be very happy", even if he has had a bad day on the golf course.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were among golfers preparing to make an early start as Thursday's first round of the 120th US Open began at Winged Foot.

Woods hasn't ruled out taking advantage of them and getting back into the hunt.

Then again, it's been 113 years since the U.S. Open was played in September. The official website U.S. also has a streaming feature of the golf event.



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