RORY McILROY delivered a “sandbox tantrum” worthy of an angry toddler – despite a brilliant start at the US Open.
A red-hot putter saw McIlroy set the early pace as he admitted he was desperate to win another Major after an eight-year wait.
The star took two meaty swipes in the sand after dumping a chip from a horrific lie over a bunker, sending his ball a few yards into another trap.
Considering he was on his way to three par 67s at Brookline, that uncharacteristic irritation underscored just how mentally draining US Open layouts can be.
Defending champion Jon Rahm provided further proof of this when he blew his top at almost exactly the same time as his Ryder Cup teammate.
Rahm yelled “What the heck!” as he sent a 10ft putt that skidded past the hole en route to a 15 bogey, prompting Sky Sports to apologize for the “pretty loud expletive”.
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The Spaniard’s spirits improved when a birdie last saw him sign for a 69.
McIlroy failed to get that finish and there was another show of frustration at a thrown club when a poor second shot on his last hole – the ninth – resulted in his only bogey.
But he shrugged and said he was pleased to build on the momentum he got from shooting a brilliant 62 in the final round of the Canadian Open four days earlier to claim a two-shot win.
The 33-year-old Northern Irishman said: “The feeling I got out there was a comfort that you don’t normally feel at a US Open.
“But it feels good to know your game is in good shape ahead of such a tough test.
“On Sunday I had to take the call and managed it by finishing birdie-birdie. It’s important to play that well all the way because at a US Open you feel like you’re under that kind of pressure the whole 72 holes.
“It’s been eight years since I’ve won a Major and I’m dying to get my hands on another of those big trophies so it was important to get off to a good start.
“Mentally I’m in good shape, as I’ve shown with some really big par saves. I actually enjoyed these more than the birdies.
“I kept telling myself to try and get through this loop without a single bogey, so I got a little frustrated when I put myself in a couple of bad spots.
“I managed to go 17 holes without a bogey and other than that one blemish at the end, it’s been a really encouraging start to the week.”
McIlroy’s sandstorm happened on the 315-yard par 4 fifth hole, the easiest hole on the course aside from the two par 5s.
He was right to feel hurt when his attempt to drive the green got stuck in a knobbly grass instead of running into the first bunker.
That meant the four-time major champion was forced to attempt a baseball-style shot as he took his stance on the sand, with his ball at chest level.
But after his angry reaction to that miss, McIlroy splashed to 13ft and sank the putt to save par – which seemed to sum up a round in which he holed practically everything he saw.
Two of his four birdies came from outside 20 feet – the others were “only” 16 and 10 feet – and he also potted long putts to save par on three other holes.
The exception was the final hole, where a 12-footer shaved the hole after being forced to jab his ball out of ankle-deep rough.
But if his putter continues to behave, McIlroy has a great chance of ending his major drought.
The only player to outperform McIlroy on the greens under the 78-man morning wave was David Lingmerth. The Swede also shot 67, along with England’s Callum Tarren to sit alongside McIlroy.
It would also help if McIlroy hit a few more fairways – he managed eight of 14 attempts.
That usually leads to a high score at the US Open, and the fact that McIlroy only made one bogey was further evidence of his incredible scrambling skills.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5579272/rory-mcilroy-leads-us-open-golf/ Rory McIlroy throws a huge bunker TANTRUM but with the masterclass he storms the lead in the first round of the US Open