ERIN, Wis. – Somebody fetch Rory McIlroy’s suitcase.
And get Jason Day’s ready while you’re at it.
Who knew McIlroy’s words from earlier in the week would echo so cruelly over Thursday’s start to the U.S. Open. Who knew McIlroy and Day would spend so much time slashing their way out of so many gnarly lies in the deep fescue at Erin Hills in their pairing together? Who knew two of the best drivers in the world would struggle to hit the widest fairways anyone can remember at a U.S. Open?
McIlroy shot 6-over-par 78, Day shot 79.
Those are the worst scores either has ever posted in this championship.
“We have 60 yards [of width in the fairways]. . . You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here. If we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
That’s what McIlroy said Tuesday when he learned the USGA was carving back wide swaths of fescue less than 48 hours before the start of the championship, to lessen the punishment for errant drives.
His words came boomeranging back in the first round.
Though McIlroy and Day aren’t heading home just yet, they’ll be packing soon enough if they don’t rebound in big ways on Friday.
McIlroy is six shots over the projected cut line, Day is seven over.
McIlroy was asked about his comments about the fescue afterward.
“The fairways should be wide enough for me to hit it into them, I just didn’t,” McIlroy said. “It was just one of those days. I was just a little bit off.”
McIlroy hit only 5 of 14 fairways. Remarkably, given McIlroy’s superior driving skills, nobody hit fewer fairways in the first round.
“I don’t think I hit a fairway after the 10th, didn’t hit one on the way in,” McIlroy said. “You cannot play this golf course if you are not in position off the tee, and I wasn’t in position.”
McIlroy said the rib injury that caused him to take so much time off this year wasn’t an issue.
“It was all totally fine,” he said. “I was hacking it around in the rough and didn’t feel it one bit. Bit of rust, timing was a little off.”
Day hit nine fairways, but that wasn’t very good given the 60-yard width of Erin Hills’ fairways. He ranked 107th in driving accuracy.
“Found some pretty awkward looks out there,” Day said.
The long, thick fescue is among the most penal grasses players have seen in a U.S. Open.
Day made two triple bogeys for the first time in a single round in his professional career. That covers 676 rounds.
“I just played bad golf, man,” said Day, who won his only major here in Wisconsin at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits two years ago. “I can’t put it any other way.”
McIlroy won the U.S. Open at Congressional in 2011 in an eight-shot runaway, one of his four major championship titles. Now, he’s in danger of missing back-to-back cuts in this championship. He missed the cut at Oakmont last year.
After making eagle at the second hole Thursday, McIlroy went on to make a pair of double bogeys and a pair of bogeys.
“And it all started so well,” McIlroy said.
Day has never missed the cut in a U.S. Open. He has five top-10 finishes in his six previous starts in this championship.
“Two triples, I don't know, it’s weird,” Day said. “It's not like I gave up. I actually gave it 100 percent all the way through the end, and I shot 79.”