Out-of-sorts McIlroy on course to miss out after opening 78

Rory McIlroy's pre-tournament comments looked set to prove disappointingly accurate as he battled to avoid missing the cut for the second year running in the US Open.

Tall fescue grass on the fourth, 12th, 14th and 18th holes at Erin Hills was being cut on Tuesday as McIlroy spoke to the media, which caught the 2011 champion by surprise.

''Really?'' an incredulous McIlroy said. ''They're the widest fairways we've ever played in a US Open. You've got 156 of the best players in the world here.

"If we can't hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.''

Unfortunately for the four-time major winner he looked on course to be doing precisely that on Friday afternoon after struggling to an opening 78, which featured an eagle on the second, four bogeys and double bogeys on the 15th and 17th.

The world number two hit just five fairways to tie for last in the 156-man field in that category as a record 44 players broke par on day one, surpassing the previous best of 39 at Medinah in 1990.

McIlroy won the US Open with a record 16-under-par total in 2011, but was a combined 50 over par for his seven other appearances before this week and missed the cut at Oakmont last year following rounds of 77 and 71.

The 28-year-old needed to make a fast start on Friday to avoid another early exit, but missed from five feet for birdie on the 10th - his opening hole - and 12 feet on the 11th, before a poor chip from the back of the 12th green led to a bogey.

Playing just his seventh tournament of the year due to a rib injury, McIlroy bounced back with a birdie from 12 feet on the 13th, but at six over par he remained five shots outside the projected cut mark.

Playing partner Jason Day was also six over and 13 shots off the lead held by American Rickie Fowler, who was among the later starters.

Fowler briefly had company at the top of the leaderboard when England's Paul Casey birdied the 11th from close range, but Casey then bogeyed the 12th and ran up a triple-bogey eight on the 14th.

Casey also dropped a shot on the 15th but regained his composure to birdied the 17th and 18th - the latter playing 676 yards - to get back to four under par.

That was three shots behind Fowler and fellow American Xander Schauffele, the 23-year-old having birdied the fifth to claim a share of the lead on his major championship debut.

South Korea's Si Woo Kim, who won the Players Championship in May, was a shot behind after covering the back nine in 34 and picking up a shot on the first.

- PA


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