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McIlroy (71) in the mix despite poor putting

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PINEHURST, N.C. – With Pinehurst No. 2 likely playing as easy as it ever will, Rory McIlroy hit all but one fairway and 14 greens Thursday en route to a first-round 71 at the U.S. Open. His 1-over start left him just three shots off the early clubhouse lead at Pinehurst.

Though fellow playing competitor Graeme McDowell marveled at the way McIlroy attacked the restored course – “He played magnificent this morning,” G-Mac said – the world No. 6 mustered only two birdies on the day, including one on the last.

The reason? Poor speed on the greens. He took 33 swipes with the putter.


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“That was the only thing that really let me down today,” McIlroy said, before adding: “If I can get the speed dialed in a little bit more, hopefully I’ll be right there over the weekend.”

McIlroy said he was “relishing” the challenge of contending on a major venue that was firm and fast. Both of his major victories have come at rain-soaked courses – first Congressional in 2011, then Kiawah Island in 2012.

“It’s inevitable that you’re going to make some bogeys and make some mistakes out here,” he said. “You just have to limit those as much as you can.”