Rory McIlroy is out to prove his Sunday collapse at the Masters Tournament two months ago was a learning experience he has, in fact, learned from.
McIlroy fired an impressive, bogey-free six-under(-par) 65 en route to a three-shot lead at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club Thursday.
Playing in an elite group with Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, McIlroy was in complete control of his game from start to finish, hitting 17 greens in regulation and keeping a great rhythm going throughout his round.
As a credit to his great attitude, McIlroy seemed completely unfazed by the memory of his final round at Augusta.
"I took the experience from Augusta, and I learned a lot from it," McIlroy said in his post-round presser. "But I feel like these good starts in the majors are very much down to...how I prepare for them ...You can't be thinking about what's happened before. You've got to just be thinking about this week and how best you can prepare and how you can get yourself around the golf course."
While McIlroy's opening round was indeed impressive, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
In the Open Championship at St. Andrews last year, McIlroy followed an opening round of 63 with an 80 the next day. And at the aforementioned Masters earlier this year, McIlroy closed with an 80 after rounds of 65-69-70.
With some morning rain softening the golf course, Congressional was about as receptive as it could possibly be. If ever a player was going to post a low number on this 7,574-yard track, today would've been the day to do it. An incredible 33 golfers were even par or better.
The day one leaderboard was highlighted by major champions.
Reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and former PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang were both three shots back at three under (par). Defending British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was another shot back at two under (par). And former British Open champion Stewart Cink and defending U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell were both at one under (par).
Former Masters champion Zach Johnson and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington are both within striking distance at even par.
It's an impressive group of battle-tested veterans who, before all is said and done, are sure to have their say in who wins this 111th U.S. Open.
Also high on the leaderboard among those at two under (par) after the opening round is Sergio Garcia, who hit an impressive 16 greens in regulation today, and Ryan Palmer, who seems to be feeding off the angst from his playoff loss to Keegan Bradley just a few weeks ago at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Missing from the top of the leaderboard were big names like Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer. The top three golfers in the world combined for a 13-over(-par) start.
But it's still very early, and there is a lot of golf left.
High profile players like Matt Kuchar (plus-one), Ernie Els (plus-two), Phil Mickelson (plus-three) and many others just a few strokes over par still have time to rebound and get into the weekend conversation with a solid round Friday.
If wet weather continue to keep Congressional friendly, even more golfers should find their way under par. But if the golf course drys out over the weekend, playing conditions will be much more true to typical U.S. Open form with firm, lightning fast greens and subsequently higher scores.