It was an ending not even Hollywood saw coming. Rory McIlroy was on track to add to what was already a blockbuster opening round filled with scoring records for the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
Hours after Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele shot the first two 62s in US Open history to lead Wyndham Clark and Dustin Johnson by two shots, McIlroy was five under through nine holes. His 30 was the best nine-hole score of his major career, one which includes four victories. The most ardent of McIlroy fans in the LA galleries were shouting “59 watch,” but it was likely just going to be a really good opening round.
The Northern Irishman didn’t birdie the par-5 14th, but managed one on the next hole, the short par-3 15th, and was cruising at six under par. At the 18th, McIlroy blasted a drive 312 yards up the left fairway. Then disaster struck his scorecard.
McIlroy pulled his approach into the thick rough around the greenside bunker and whiffed his pitch shot. On a day when his longest drive was 382 yards, this shot traveled zero yards.
Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy talk on the 11th green. Sean M. Haffey
Bewildered, the 2011 US Open winner collected himself and pitched his ball to 11 feet. He made an impressive bogey, given the circumstances, and signed for a 65. He was three back off the lead and hit 13 fairways and 16 greens in regulation.
Then McIlroy skipped post-round media commitments, having also removed himself from a scheduled Tuesday pre-tournament interview. Before Thursday’s opening round, he had only spoken with Golf Channel and Sky Sports. McIlroy appears to be making a concerted effort to refrain from interviews after a tumultuous year in which he became the most vocal critic against LIV Golf.
McIlroy played the opening round at LACC with five-time major winner Brooks Koepka and former Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama. McIlroy and the two-time US Open champion Koepka embraced with a bro handshake before the round and spoke multiple times during Koepka’s one-over 71. That was always to be expected; the two are friendly and regularly catch up at golf courses in Jupiter, Fla. Koepka, whose fifth major win came at last month’s PGA Championship, was not able to continue that form into Day 1 of the US Open. “I didn’t hit good all day and didn’t deserve shoot much better,” Koepka said.
Despite the obvious frustration and bogey on his final hole, McIlroy is in the top five on the leaderboard. And the scoring was lights out; the scoring average of 71.38 was the lowest for an opening round ever at the US Open. Six scores of 65 or lower were the most in a single round in the championship’s history. No player shot worse than 79, and that had also never happened.
The US Open hadn’t been to LA in 75 years, and its return did not disappoint. To think, it’s not even the weekend yet.