Rory McIlroy in Contention After Strong Opening Round at 2020 US Open

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2020

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, plays his shot from the second tee during the first round of the US Open Golf Championship, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Rory McIlroy is right in the thick of things through one round of the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.

McIlroy carded a three-under 67 on Thursday. By the time his round ended, he was in third place, two shots off leader Justin Thomas.

He started on the 10th tee and promptly got his tournament underway with a birdie.

McIlroy improved to two under on No. 13. He watched his tee shot on the par-three roll to within four feet of the cup.

He concluded his front nine with a birdie on No. 18, sinking a 23-foot putt on his third shot.

McIlroy gave the stroke right back with a bogey on No. 1 but rebounded nicely on the third hole.

The 2011 Open champion likely came away frustrated on the seventh hole after throwing away a golden opportunity to grab a share of the lead. He got onto the green with his drive on No. 6, leaving himself with slim odds of an eagle but a straightforward path to a birdie. Instead, he three-putted his way to a par.

Still, McIlroy laid the groundwork for a strong result in Mamaroneck, New York.

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Since the PGA Tour restarted its season in June, McIlroy has been well below his best. He went eight events—including a 33rd-place showing in the PGA Championship—before tying for eighth in the Tour Championship. And even that result deserves some sort of footnote about the field only being 30 golfers deep.

Seeing the four-time major winner near the top of the leaderboard will be a welcome sight for golf fans. The U.S. Open is shaping up to be a star-studded battle as well.

Since he teed off in the morning Thursday, McIlroy will get to sleep in a bit prior to Friday's second round. He, Adam Scott and Justin Rose will tee off from No. 1 at 1:27 p.m. ET.