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It may not have worked at Augusta, but its certainly doing the trick at Pinehurst No.2. 

Rory McIlroy is bouncing around the iconic North Carolina property with a shared lead at the US Open, spurred on by his grouping with the two form players in the world.

The Northern Irishman – paired with Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele at this year’s Masters – fired a scintillating 65 in the very same company to match Patrick Cantlay’s score on the opening day of this season’s penultimate major.

Scheffler’s 71 and Schauffele’s 70 were very respectable on the most demanding of setups, but McIlroy’s late flourish with birdies at 16 and 18 was the start he has longed for in one of the ‘Big Four.’

Asked if it was nice that he was ‘putting on a show’ in front of the overwhelming favourite Scheffler, McIlroy replied: “I guess, in a way. It’s not just the Masters that we’ve been watching Scottie do his thing. But yeah, absolutely.

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“I enjoy playing in these groups. When you’ve been out here for, whatever it is, 16 or 17 years, sometimes you need a little extra to get the juices going, and being in a group like that definitely helps.”

McIlroy found 15 of the treacherous Pinehurst greens in regulation in his bogey free round and put his dream start down to his unflappable mental approach on day one.

“I think [I am being] just super conservative with my strategy and my game” he said. “I think with my demeanour, just trying to be super stoic. Just trying to be as even keeled as I possibly can be.

“I really feel like that’s the thing that has served me well in these US Opens over the past few years. Just trying to be 100% committed to the shots and to having a good attitude.

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“I went through a run there for a while where my starts at major championships weren’t very good. Probably got myself a little too worked up at the start of the week.

“But yeah, even back to the PGA, I opened with a 5-under there at Valhalla. Felt like I played okay. First day at Augusta, even going all the way back to this tournament last year, opened with a low one. Wasn’t quite as low as Rickie and Xander, but it was nice to open up with a low one and feel like you’re right in the tournament from the first day.

“Certainly the major championships that I’ve won or the ones that I’ve played well at, I’ve always seemed to get off to a good start, and it’s nice to get off to another one.”

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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