PEBBLE BEACH, CA. -- On Wednesday, Rory McIlroy diagnosed something that's plagued him during the first two majors of the year -- the first round.
At Augusta National, McIlroy posted an opening-round 1-over- 73. A month later at Bethpage, the four-time major champion opened with a 2-over-par 72, placing him nine shots behind eventual champion Brooks Koepka after the first round.
McIlroy made it a point prior to the start of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that he needs to not put himself behind the eight-ball after Day 1 of a major championship.
Thursday's opening round got off to an ominous start for McIlroy. Starting on the Par-4 10th, he tugged his second shot into the greenside bunker. His third shot was a good effort, but the ball raced past the hole giving him 23 feet left for par. McIlroy couldn't drain his par putt and immediately found himself over par while others in the early wave were attacking a gettable course.
But, McIlroy steadied himself with pars at 11 and 12 before drilling a 14-foot birdie putt on 13 to get back to even par. From there, he survived a shaky ball-striking day (9-of-14 fairways, 12-of-18 greens in regulation) to get into the clubhouse at 3-under par, three strokes off the pace set by Justin Rose.
It's been almost five years since McIlroy tasted major championship glory, but the last three times he opened a major by shooting in the 60s he went on to win the tournament (2012 PGA, 2014 British Open and 2014 PGA).
A Thursday-68 has to have McIlroy, who ripped apart the Canadian Open last week, feeling good about his chances.
It's been a long major drought for the former world No. 1, but that's not something that's weighing on his mind at Pebble Beach.
"Not really, no," McIlroy said. "Yeah, I'm eager to get back into that position, but at the same time I'm still going to go home and my wife is still going to hopefully love me and my parents are going to love me. And I'll be the same person. Whether I have four majors or 12 majors, I'll still be the same person."