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U.S. Open: Will Rory McIlroy sink or swim?

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We love our phenoms, and we apparently have one going now in the U.S. Open golf tournament.

Before Los Angeles got the sleep rubbed out of its eyes, Rory McIlroy, Thursday’s three-shot leader, had expanded that to seven. His best moment was when he hit in from the fairway on the par four eighth.

That was an eagle and put him 10 under par.

For perspective, 10 under par only happens in the U.S. Open every decade or so.

McIlroy had an anxious moment on the dreaded No. 10, a par three over water that they made into 220 yards Friday by taking the tees even farther back. McIlroy hit a five iron — yes, some human beings can hit that club that far — and barely got it over the bank and onto the green. He made par and allowed himself a huge sigh of relief.

Observers here are watching the young man from Northern Ireland carefully. The questions range from the stupid — is this the next Tiger Woods? — to the educated: Can he hold up in a major after having similar situations of great rounds, followed by blowups. He did it last year at the British Open at St. Andrews, following a 63 with an 80. And he did it this year at the Masters, when he imploded with another 80 on the final day after being the 54-hole leader.

Time, and the long fairways and slick greens at Congressional Country Club, will tell.

The best first round from the five players who qualified for the U.S. Open June 6 at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale was by the two pros, Brian Locke and Matt Edwards. They each shot 75, four over par. Locke was the final player in, making a birdie putt on the third playoff hole in the dark at Oakmont.

The three amateurs were led by 16-year-old Beau Hossler Jr., with 76, followed by Colorado’s Steve Irwin, with 78, and Arizona State star Scott Pinckney’s 79.

Hossler started to come apart a bit Friday morning, going four over on the first seven holes.
Irwin, son of three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, took his first-day struggles philosophically.
“I’m going to go home, sit down, kick my feet up and remind myself that I’m a 36-year-old amateur and try to go out tomorrow and have a good time and have some fun. That’s about it.”

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-- Bill Dwyre, reporting from Bethesda, Md.

Photo: Rory Mcllroy. Credit: Andrew Redington / Getty Images.

 
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