Rory McIlroy Shows Major Form with Bogey-Free 65, Shares U.S. Open Lead with Patrick Cantlay

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) – Rory McIlroy showcased his major championship form with a flawless 5-under 65, sharing the U.S. Open lead with Patrick Cantlay. McIlroy’s bogey-free round, his first in a major since his last victory a decade ago, was a masterclass in precision and control at Pinehurst No. 2.

McIlroy capped his round with a dramatic 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th, receiving cheers from the grandstands as it dropped into the cup. Reflecting on his performance, McIlroy said, “I wasn’t showing off. I thought I left it short. But it got up there, it was nice, and a great way to finish. The way I played today, the way I hit the ball, the way I managed myself, I felt like that score was pretty deserved.”

Cantlay's Steady Start

Patrick Cantlay also delivered a strong performance, finishing with a 65 despite a single bogey. Cantlay’s round featured a bunker birdie on his second hole and two birdie putts from 20 feet. His consistency throughout the day placed him in a tie with McIlroy for the lead.

Tough Conditions Challenge Top Players

Pinehurst No. 2 presented a challenging yet playable setup, with over a dozen players scoring under par. Scottie Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player, struggled off the tee but managed a 71, keeping him in contention. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, faced difficulties, ending his round with a 74 and extending his streak of rounds without breaking par in majors to twelve.

McIlroy’s Dominance

McIlroy demonstrated his command from the outset, birdieing the 528-yard fourth hole with a 6-iron to 7 feet and chipping in for another birdie on the following hole. His towering iron shots consistently found the green, avoiding the tricky edges that define Donald Ross’ design.

McIlroy’s bogey-free round continued his trend of starting strong in majors, having won the last three majors he began without a bogey. “Getting off to a good start is important to try to keep yourself up there, because you have to give yourself as big of a cushion as possible, knowing what is lurking around the corner,” McIlroy said.

Rising Stars and Notable Performances

Ludvig Åberg, making his U.S. Open debut, impressed with a 66, highlighted by a birdie on the daunting par-3 ninth. Bryson DeChambeau and Matthieu Pavon of France each carded 67s, while Sergio Garcia, in his 25th U.S. Open, matched McIlroy’s bogey-free feat but with only one birdie.

Cantlay's Major Ambitions

Cantlay’s performance reflects his solid all-around game, though he has yet to win a major despite several strong finishes. Watching his friend Xander Schauffele win a major last month has fueled Cantlay’s determination. “I’ve been working really hard on my game,” Cantlay said. “And usually when you make just a couple changes and you’re working really hard, it’s just a matter of time.”

Mixed Results for Other Contenders

The conditions at Pinehurst proved difficult for many top players. Viktor Hovland struggled to a 78, Justin Thomas shot 77, and Will Zalatoris managed only a 75. Colin Morikawa, despite two double bogeys, finished with an even-par 70, showcasing resilience with a spectacular birdie on the 17th and another on the 18th.

McIlroy and Cantlay’s impressive starts set the stage for a compelling U.S. Open, where the battle for the championship continues amidst the challenging layout of Pinehurst No. 2.