AS IT STANDS -4 Henley, Oosthuizen; -3 F. Molinari, Cabrera Bello; -2 Koepka, Schauffele, Buckley, Matsuyama, Rahm, Munoz. SELECTED OTHERS -1 McIlroy, Scott, Hatton; E MacIntyre, D. Johnson, Westwood; +3 Laird; +4 Mickelson; +6 Spieth
Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that he planned to take an 'indifferent' approach into the US Open in a bid to end his seven-year major drought.
After 18 holes at Torrey Pines, it appears to be working.
As darkness fell on San Diego, the Northern Irishman holed a birdie putt at the 18th to post a one-under-par round of 70, just three back of the early pace-setters Russell Henley and Louis Oosthuizen.
Former Open champ Oosthuizen will have a chance to claim the outright lead when he returns to play the final hole of his opening round on Friday morning, bad light having brought an end to a fog-delayed first day, with several players still on the course.
Francesco Molinari and Rafa Cabrera Bello are a shot adrift of Henley and Oosthuizen, with two-time US Open winner Brooks Koepka, Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm all on two-under.
However, it is arguably the performance of McIlroy that has most caught the attention.
The four-time major champion's recent form has been erratic at best, a victory in the Wells Fargo Championship sandwiched between missed cuts at both the Masters and the PLAYERS Championship, and indifferent performances at the US PGA and the Memorial.
His front nine was uncharacteristically drama-free, birdies at the first and eighth holes surrounded by pars as he went out in two-under.
However, the back nine was much more nervy - and, dare it be said, more like the kind of golf we have come to expect fro McIlroy.
A birdie at 12 was book-ended by bogeys at 10 and 13. Another shot went at 16 and, when he overcooked an escape from a greenside bunker, it looked as though he'd cough up at least one more at 17. Instead, he holed a tricky downhill putt for a vital par, before picking up a crucial shot at the last in near-darkness.
"I played well," said McIlroy afterwards. "I played solid. I didn't miss a green until the seventh hole and I was able to chip that in, which was a bonus. But that's the key around here, you can get away with some wayward shots off the tee, and I did today, but I was able to recover well and hit greens.
"If you can just keep hitting greens out here, that's the name of the game
and I did that well."
Meanwhile, there were contrasting fortunes for the two Scots in the field.
Robert MacIntyre continued his impressive major form with a level-par 71. Like McIlroy, he recovered from a wobble early in his back nine to birdie the last and put himself squarely in the mix.
Compatriot Martin Laird got to within one shot of the lead earlier in the day when an eagle at the 18th - his ninth - propelled him to two-under.
However, he dropped five shots in six holes from the turn to lie three-over for the championship and facing a battle on Friday to make the cut.