The Country Club rough seizes Rory McIlroy’s frustration … but only temporarily

BROOKLINE — As with any U.S. Open, the unforgiving rough is sure to be a story line to follow this week at The Country Club. It’s certain to present problems for golfers at both end of the leaderboard all weekend long.

Late in his otherwise sterling opening round on Thursday, Rory McIlroy dealt with the rough’s wrath. And he took his frustration out on a poor, innocent sand trap.

After sending his tee shot near a fairway bunker on the par-4 fifth hole (his 14th hole of the day), McIlroy arrived at his ball and reacted the way most anyone would upon finding a ball ensnared in some gnarly grass on the lip of a bunker, letting out a colorful word not fit for print. Upon doing his best to muscle the ball out of the rough and toward the green, the best McIlroy could do was send his ball into another fairway bunker, which was only about 20 yards in front of him.

McIlroy was … nonplussed.

While such a reaction was certainly relatable to most viewers, what happened next was not.

McIlroy blasted out of the sand to roll his ball past the hole, before calmly draining his putt to save par.

McIlroy avoided bogeys until the very last hole, finishing his day tied for the lead at 3-under.

After the round, McIlroy admitted that a long wait on the fifth tee might have contributed to his frustration.

“Yeah, the guys in front of us were playing so slow. They were like a hole or a hole-and-a-half behind the group in front of them,” McIlroy said of the threesome that included Scott Stallings, Davis Riley, and Victor Perez. “So yeah, that was a little frustrating.”

McIlroy did say that his par saves on the fifth and the second stood out the most to him after the round.

“I think one of the things over the years that I maybe haven’t done as well is when I put myself in those sort of positions, like long rough on two or where I found myself on five. Trying to be a little too heroic with the first shot, and leaving it in there or just sort of completely getting it wrong and then all of a sudden you’re scrambling to make a double,” McIlroy said. “So I think, walking up to those greens, I was accepting of the fact that you just give yourself 10, 15, 20 feet for par, and I feel like I’m putting well enough that I will have a chance of getting it. So that was sort of the mindset. To hole two putts like that and keep the momentum going, that was huge – especially on five. Drivable par-4, you’re thinking you’ll make a birdie, and then all of a sudden, you’re scrambling for par. It was nice to make a putt there.

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