Luke Donald’s first major tournament as golf’s No. 1 player got off to a rough start.
Donald, who moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking on May 30 after capturing the European Tour’s British PGA Championship, shot 3-over-par 74 in his opening round today at the U.S. Open.
The 33-year-old Englishman is nine shots behind tournament leader Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who shot a 6-under 65, after the first-round at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
Playing in a group with No. 2-ranked Lee Westwood, also of England, and No. 3 Martin Kaymer of Germany, Donald had birdies on his opening two holes, the par-3 10th and par-4 11th.
“I was loving the start,” Donald told reporters. “It was perfect.”
After a par on the 12th, his day began to unravel with a three-putt bogey on the 13th, followed by bogeys on three of his next four holes. He closed out his opening nine holes with a double-bogey on the 18th.
“It was a struggle,” Donald said. “It’s not what I had envisioned, but hopefully I can find a little better ball control tomorrow.”
Donald gained a shot back when he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole, his 10th of the day. He bogeyed the seventh and birdied the eighth, where he hit a 9-iron within 8 feet of the cup.
“It was untidy,” Donald said of his day. “I didn’t hit enough fairways.”
The winner of seven events worldwide in his career, Donald has posted 10 top-10 finishes since missing the 36-hole cut at the U.S. PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open in February. Along with his win two weeks ago at Wentworth, southwest of London, Donald captured the World Golf Championships Match Play event in Arizona this season.
Donald’s rise to the No. 1 spot came three years after he tore a tendon in his wrist at the U.S. Open, requiring surgery. His best finish in seven previous U.S. Open appearances was a tie for 12th in 2006 at New York’s Winged Foot Golf Club.
The U.S. Golf Association, which organizes the tournament, grouped the game’s top three players together for the first two rounds.
Westwood, who lost to Donald in a playoff at last month’s British PGA Championship, shot a 4-over 75 today, while Kaymer matched Donald’s 74 score.
“All three of us struggled a bit,” Donald said. “There were no fireworks. It was a solemn group.”