McIlroy dazzles to seize early lead

Briton fires six-under to go three shots clear

 Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy in action in the first round of the US Open on Thursday. AFP

The richly talented Northern Irishman fired a flawless six-under-par 65 in wind, rain and sunshine on the heavily tree-lined Blue Course to take control of the year's second major.

With a dazzling array of pinpoint approach shots and silky smooth putting, McIlroy ended the day three ahead of South Korean Yang Yong-eun and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.

"I didn't really put a foot wrong," McIlroy, 22, told reporters after claiming the first-round lead for a third time in the last four majors. "I'm driving it well, I'm hitting my iron shots good and I'm holing a few putts. So it's a nice combination."

He delivered the only bogey-free round of the day and his three-shot lead after 18 holes has been bettered only twice before at the US Open.

"I have to go out tomorrow and back it up to put myself in a good position going into the weekend," added the Briton, who was four ahead going into the final round of this year's Masters before tumbling out of contention with an 80.

Asked how he had managed to bounce back so effectively from his Augusta National woes, McIlroy replied with a smile: "I don't know if it says that I've just got a very short memory.

"I took the experience from Augusta, and I learned a lot from it. But I feel like these good starts in the majors are very much down to my preparation."

British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Spaniard Sergio Garcia, American Ryan Palmer, Brazil's Alexandre Rocha, South Korean Kim Kyung-tae and Australian Scott Hend opened with 69s.

Holder Graeme McDowell of Britain and former major winners Stewart Cink and Davis Love III were among a group of 12 players on 70. However the heavyweight trio of Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer — the world's top three golfers — failed to spark after playing together in the first round.

World number one Donald of Britain shot a three-over 74, second-ranked compatriot Westwood posted a 75 and PGA champion Kaymer of Germany registered a 74.

With Congressional's greens fairly receptive after being softened by morning rain, scoring was overall better than expected in the opening round of the year's second major.
Phil Mickelson, the American world number five who has been a US Open runner-up five times, struggled badly off the tee on his way to an opening 74.

Leading first-round scores (US unless stated otherwise):
65: Rory McIlroy (Britain); 68: Yang Yong-eun (South Korea), Charl Schwartzel (South Africa); 69: Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Ryan Palmer, Alexandre Rocha (Brazil), Kim Kyung-tae (South Korea), Scott Hend (Australia), Sergio Garcia (Spain); 70: Chez Reavie, Stewart Cink, Graeme McDowell (Britain), Johan Edfors (Sweden), Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Davis Love III, John Senden (Australia), Robert Garrigus, Bubba Dickerson, Alvaro Quiros (Spain), Brandt Snedeker, Robert Rock (Britain); 71: Heath Slocum, Angel Cabrera (Argentina), Padraig Harrington (Ireland), Jason Day (Australia), Bubba Watson, Brandt Jobe, William Cauley, Zach Johnson, Aaron Baddeley (Australia), Charley Hoffman, David May, Christopher Deforest.

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