Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy co-lead after 18 holes

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Rory McIlroy reacts after putting on the 18th green during the first round of the 2024 U.S. Open. (Photo: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

Rory McIlroy walked in his 20-foot birdie putt at 18 to tie for the lead after the first round of the U.S. Open. It looked as if it was McIlroy playing with a little swagger but turns out he wasn’t oozing with confidence over that one.

“I thought I’d left it short. That’s why I walked off it. Full disclosure. It looked good, though,” he said.

McIlroy, the world No. 2, won the 2011 U.S. Open, one of his four major titles, but is winless in the majors in nearly a decade. But his fast start bodes well as the last three times he opened with a bogey-free round in a major, he’s won at the 2014 Open Championship, 2012 PGA Championship and 2011 U.S. Open. It marked his sixth opening round of 65 or better in a major, including back-to-back years at the U.S. Open.

McIlroy said he’s evolved his strategy for the U.S. Open since 2018 when he missed the cut.

“If you look at the U.S. Open that I did win in ’11, it was more like a PGA Championship rather than a U.S. Open, typical U.S. Open setup,” he said. “I really don’t think I embraced U.S. Open setups probably 10 years into my U.S. Open career. Played my first one in ’09, and I think I really changed my mindset around them in 2019, that one in Pebble, and then since then I’ve — I’ve also started to enjoy this style of golf a lot more.”

As for the strategy: “Just trying to hit it into the middles of greens and giving yourself chances every single time, taking your medicine if you do hit it into trouble,” he explained.

In the first round, McIlroy hit 15 of 18 greens and added a bonus chip-in to boot.

“My short game was good early on. I chipped in at 5 and had a really good up-and-down on 6, another really good up-and-down on 8. But apart from that, I think I hit every other green,” he said. “It was a really controlled round of golf.”

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