Advertisement

Cantlay leads from Aberg as Woods grinds at US Open

Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay's best finish at a major is joint third at the US PGA Championship in 2019 [Getty Images]

Ryder Cup stars Patrick Cantlay and Ludvig Aberg set the early pace on day one of a challenging US Open at Pinehurst, North Carolina.

American Cantlay shot an excellent five-under 65 to lead by one from Sweden's Aberg with Frenchman Matthieu Pavon a further shot back.

Three-time winner Tiger Woods wobbled around the turn with five bogeys in seven holes and ended at four over par.

World number one Scottie Scheffler, US PGA champion Xander Schauffele and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy are grouped together among the later starters on the notoriously tough Number Two course.

Last autumn, the US defence of the Ryder Cup was spearheaded by Cantlay but the Californian has only managed two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season.

Yet to win a major, his round ignited on the back nine when he fired three birdies in his final five holes to jump out in front.

Before April, Aberg had never even played in a major championship, despite thrilling for Europe in their victory in Rome.

A tie for second on his Masters debut showcased his thrilling talent and three birdies on the front nine catapulted him up the leaderboard again.

Trouble on the par-three sixth (his 15th hole) cost him a shot but an outstanding tee shot at the short ninth set up a birdie and outright second place.

One behind at three under par is Pavon, who won the Farmers Insurance Open in January, while American Tony Finau blotted his excellent start with a bogey at the last to finish two under.

Meanwhile, it was a mixed day for Cantlay’s well-fancied Ryder Cup team-mates Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa.

Five-time major winner Koepka briefly led at three under par after 10 holes but gave his shots back in the final eight holes to finish five off the lead at level par.

Morikawa has been in fine form this season, finishing fourth and third at the previous two majors and he tuned up for Pinehurst with a second place at last week's Memorial Championship.

The 2021 Open champion finished his round in style by holing a bunker shot for birdie at 17 and then holed from 17 feet at the last to match Koepka's 70.

Woods loses ground in Pinehurst battle

Tiger Woods
Woods is playing in his first US Open since 2020 [EPA]

As usual, thousands of fans followed Woods around the course and, after opening with a birdie, five solid pars anchored him in the top 10.

His round threatened to unravel around the turn but the 15-time major champion rallied, offering a trademark fist pump when sinking a par at the seventh, his 16th hole.

But a further bogey at his penultimate hole left him nine shots off the lead.

Earlier this week, he said he expected "a war of attrition" on a fast and firm course with upturned saucer greens that repel approach shots.

When the US Open was last held here in 2014, Martin Kaymer won by eight shots but was one of only three players to shoot under par for the tournament.

Indeed, prior to day one of this tournament, a mere five of 1,368 US Open rounds played on Pinehurst's Number Two course have been bogey free.

Spain's Sergio Garcia, who only found out he was playing on Monday morning, made that six with one birdie and 17 pars in his 69.