BETHESDA, Md. – Rory McIlroy didn’t reach the major magic number. But the bogey-free 65 the young Northern Irishman shot was good enough for a three-stroke lead after the first round of the U.S. Open.
As McIlroy parred his final three holes in pursuit of the elusive 63, the rain returned to Congressional. But it wasn’t enough to dampen the solid start that gave McIlroy his fourth first-round lead on the PGA TOUR – and second straight at a major championship.
McIlroy’s three-stroke advantage is the largest after the first round of the U.S. Open since 1976 when Mike Reid, then an amateur, led four players by the same margin.
Minutes after McIlroy polished off that 65, Sergio Garcia had a chance to tie Y.E. Yang for second. But the Spaniard three-putted from the front of the 18th green and dropped back into a tie for fourth at 2 under.
Charl Schwartzel, the reigning Masters champion, ended up tied with Yang at 68. The group of six shooting 69s included Schwarzel’s good friend Louis Oosthuizen, American Ryan Palmer, Brazil’s Alex Rocha, Kyung-tae Kim of Korea, Australia’s Scott Hend and Garcia.
McIlroy’s playing partners didn’t fare as well as he did. Phil Mickelson only hit five fairways and eight greens in his round of 74 while Dustin Johnson had a 75.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Y.E. Yang already knows how to win a major.
Only, he captured the 2009 PGA Championship by coming from behind to beat Tiger Woods. Until that Sunday. Woods had never lost a major when he owned the 54-hole lead as he did that day at Hazeltine National.
When Thursday morning's wave of the 111th U.S. Open was complete, Yang found himself in a very different position -- leading at 3 under. He had never led a PGA TOUR event after the first round, nor had he ever led any of the first three rounds of a major.
"In Korea, they say that it takes a winner to recognize a winner," Yang said through an interpreter. "Definitely it'll help. I'm not sure if it boosts my confidence or helps me under pressure. But I know the feeling, and I know that it's a little more of everything in a major than it is in other tournaments.
“So it's easier for me to cope with that kind of pressure or expectations, whatever you want to call it. It definitely has some kind of psychological advantage."
Yang set the tone for his day with a birdie at the 10th hole
after a pinpoint 5-hybrid on his first shot. Of course, it didn't
help that his playing partners, Ryo Ishikawa and Anthony Kim, both
hit their 5-irons at the daunting par 3 into the water.
"That's when it really hit me that oh, this hole is really tough," Yang said. "I was praying when I was hitting it that I would just get it on the green. Fortunately for me it landed fairly well on the green and I was fortunate enough to make a birdie. So I think that's probably the best scenario that anybody could want."
Yang found the water with his next tee shot, though, but managed to get the stroke back at the par-3 13th. A bogey at the 18th hole brought the Korean back to even par but he played the front nine in 33 to grab the lead.
"Overall, I'm more impressed with the weather, actually," Yang
said. "It helped me a lot. It softened the greens, which we
anticipated would be really hard after all the greens, what they
went through last week. And I anticipate that it's not going to get
any easier than today unless it starts to rain a lot.
"But overall, I had probably the most success on par 3s (making birdie on all four) that I've ever had in my career over here, so right now the impression is quite good."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Louis Oosthuizen knows Americans may never get the pronunciation of his last name right. But the PGA TOUR rookie is willing to cut us some slack.
"I like being out here, I enjoy it," Oosthuizen said. "And I'm just trying to get the game sharp so I can be on the leaderboard more."
The reigning British Open champion certainly headed in the right direction in that regard on Thursday at Congressional. He fired a 69 that left him one shot off the clubhouse lead held by Y.E. Yang at midway point of the first round of the U.S. Open.
"I think it was quite a few birdies out there," Oosthuizen said. "Some of the pins you can get to, and the greens were pretty fair today. It was good. I felt really comfortable, but it still was one or two bad shots you hit, you end up making a bogey and you had to hit it straight out because the rough was pretty thick."
To say Oosthuizen's major record -- aside from that signature seven-shot victory at St. Andrews last year -- has been spotty would be a compliment. He has missed the cut in nine of the 11 majors he's entered but the tide appears to be turning this week.
The South African spent last week practicing and working with his coach. Granted, Oosthuizen didn't get off to the start he wanted with bogeys on Nos. 1 and 2 but he certainly can't be unhappy with where he ended up.
Oosthuizen -- who says he likes Congressional because he can hit one of his favorite clubs, the driver, a lot -- got back on track with a 20-footer for birdie at the fourth hole, an 8-footer at No. 7 and an up-and-down at the par-5 eighth to turn in 1 under.
He nearly holed a 4-iron at the 11th hole to move to 2 under but gave that cushion back with bogeys at the next two holes. The resilient South African rallied, though, with a 3-footer for birdie at the par-5 16th and a 12-footer at No. 18.
Oosthuizen and his playing partner, Graeme McDowell, who shot 1 under, had an interesting thing happen at the ninth hole, too. McDowell laid up on the par 5 with hybrid, Oosthuizen with a 3-iron.
"We got to the balls and they were touching each other, lying next to each other," Oosthuizen said. "On the green you see it now and then, but I've never seen it on the fairway. ... He had to move his ball away and then I had to go first.
"So it was quite a funny moment, I think. I don't think we expected it to be that close."
BETHESDA, Md. – That “Golf Boys” video notwithstanding, Bubba Watson is doing what he does best on Thursday at the U.S. Open. And that’s not dancing.
Watson started on the back nine and parred his first six holes before making bogey at No. 17. He made the turn in 36 and added two more pars before erupting with a string of three straight birdies to move to 2 under.
So Watson, who lost the PGA last year in a playoff, is now one stroke off the lead held jointly by Y.E. Yang and Ryan Palmer. Yang is playing his 18th hole, the par-5 ninth, while Palmer, who started on the front, has completed 13.
Watson has treated his fans to two wildly different looks this week. He wore overalls – and no shirt – in the music video that was released on Tuesday – performing to the song “Oh, Oh, Oh” with Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler. Click here to watch.
During the U.S. Open, Watson is honoring the military with a green shirt and camouflage pants. He wore all white each day at the Masters.
BETHESDA, Md. – A man who has never played the weekend at a U.S. Open is setting the pace midway through the morning half of the draw.
Ryan Palmer, who missed the cut at the U.S. Open in 1998 and 2007, has yet to make a bogey in the first round. The Texan started on the front, as have the majority of the players at the top of the leaderboard, and has completed 11 holes in 3 under.
Giving chase are several major champions, including Graeme McDowell, who is defending the title he won a year ago at Pebble Beach. He’s tied at 1 under along with 2009 British Open champ Stewart Cink, 2009 PGA champ Y.E. Yang and Davis Love III, who won the 1997 PGA.
Also at 1 under are Chez Reavie, who is playing his 18th hole; J.J. Henry and Jason Day. The group at even par includes three-time major champion Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen, who will defend his British Open title next month at Royal St. George’s.
Phil Mickelson, who has finished second at the U.S. Open five times, is among the afternoon starters. The birthday boy – Mickelson turns 41 today -- tees off No. 10 in the day’s Featured Group with Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The focus headed into Saturday's third round of the Masters obviously is on the two youngsters at the top of the leaderboard -- 21-year-old tournament leader Rory McIlroy and his 23-year-old playing partner, Jason Day, who's two shots behind – as well as the looming presence of Tiger Woods, who will be in the penultimate pairing with K.J. Choi, three shots off the lead.
Lots of attention will also be paid to Lee Westwood, last year's runner-up who is five shots behind; Fred Couples, the 51-year-old who always makes noise at Augusta National; and Phil Mickelson, the defending champ who's eight shots back and needs to make a move.
That means a lot of other players – world-class players -- will start the round flying under the radar.
Here's a look at five veterans who could rise up the leaderboard while the others deal with the pressure.
GEOFF OGILVY -- The 2006 U.S. Open champ has never finished in the top 10 in five previous Masters starts, but he's only four shots off the lead. He and McIlroy are the only two players who posted rounds in the 60s in each of the first two days.
Y.E. YANG -- Like Ogilvy, he has major credentials, having won the 2009 PGA Championship. This is the second consecutive year the Korean has played well at Augusta National; he finished tied for eighth last year. He enters Saturday tied for seventh, five shots off the pace.
LUKE DONALD -- The Englishman put on a dominant performance in winning the world Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, and he quietly moved up the leaderboard on Friday with a 68, leaving him six shots behind. With a hot hand this year, he was one of the favorites coming into this week.
JIM FURYK -- The reigning FedExCup champion has struggled this year, and with a less-than-spectacular track record at Augusta National (just four top 10s in 14 previous starts), expectations were low. But like Donald, he shot 68 on Friday and is six shots back. Not sure if he keep up that pace Saturday, but do you really want to count him out?
ANGEL CABRERA -- The 2009 Masters champ starts the day seven shots off the lead. He has shot 69 in the third round in the previous two years here, and another 69 on Saturday might give him a fighting chance on Sunday.
So, who's your favorite flying-under-the-radar player going into Saturday? Is it one of the players above or somebody else on the leaderboard? Fill out the form below and let us know.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- K.J. Choi’s success at Augusta National is well-documented. He tied for fourth a year ago, was third in 2004 and tied for 15th in 2003. Here in Round 2, he’s in the lead after moving to 8 under for the week with a birdie on the par-3 sixth.
Y.E. Yang was once at 8 under, too. But he’s since dropped back to 6 under after a bogey on the par-4 ninth and another on the par-4 10th.
Overnight co-leader Alvaro Quiros, meanwhile, has already dropped a shot following a bogey on the first hole.
Others climbing onto the first page of the leaderboard include Geoff Ogilvy, who is 1 under through seven holes and 4 under for the tournament, and Gary Woodland, who is 1 under through 6 holes and 4 under for the week.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With cooler temperatures, overcast skies and a chance of rain at some point, Y.E. Yang is taking advantage of what appears to be a very receptive Augusta National right now.
Yang, who began the day with a bogey on the par-4 first hole, has since bounced back with three straight birdies to move to 7 under and into a tie for the lead.
Ricky Barnes has also gained two strokes on the lead, moving to 6 under for the tournament after a birdie on the par-5 second hole and another on the par-3 fourth.
Overnight co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros, meanwhile, will tee off at 12:42 p.m. ET and 10:41 a.m., respectively.
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- He was two holes from a great round. But Y.E. Yang just couldn't hang on.
The 2009 PGA champion bogeyed the last two holes to fall out of what would have been a share of the first round lead. Instead, he finds himself in an all-Korean share of second with K.J. Choi going into the second round.
Yang was 4 under on the front nine and, after dropping a shot at No. 10, he eagled the 13th to get to 5 under, then birdied the 15th -- two putts from 12 feet -- and No. 16 -- with another 12-footer -- to tie Rory McIlroy.
"I saw myself in the leaderboard tied with the leader,'' he said. "I guess I got a little bit overzealous in the last two holes.''
On No. 17, he drove left into the trees, hit a hybrid into the bunker and missed the par putt.
"It's a bit disappointing to finish off two bogeys in a row, and go back down to behind the leader,'' he said, " but at the same time still a lot of golf left, and it's been an overall good experience so far and I hope that it doesn't end prematurely. I hope it goes along for three more days."
As for two Korean players tied near the top?
"It's a very good course for Koreans, for us,'' he said. " It's atypical of a Korean course, so if you're on a good day, I think that it's to our advantage, really, this course is.
"So, and it definitely builds on the confidence and the momentum. Although it's a year apart, still, coming over here and putting on a good performance in one of the best arenas possible I think it only builds upon your confidence.
"Hopefully, it doesn't dwindle and I can ride upon it for three more days.''