Akshay Bhatia Tied sixth as McIlroy and Cantlay share lead -
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Akshay Bhatia Tied sixth as McIlroy and Cantlay share lead  

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 Akshay Bhatia. 

Khel Today Bureau 

Pinehurst, NC: Indian-American Akshay Bhatia, getting a taste of his third Major this season, opened strongly with a round of 2-under 68 that saw him in the Tied-sixth place on the opening day of the 124th US Open.

Bhatia finished his round with a birdie in a round that had four birdies against two bogeys.

Rory McIlroy shot his first bogey-free round in a major since the last time he won one 10 years ago. He shot a 5-under 65 that gave him a share of the lead with Patrick Cantlay after the first day.

While Bhatia was Tied 6th, another player with Indian connection Aaron Rai of England carded 69 to be Tied-ninth. However, Sahith Theegala (77) was T-132.

World Number Scottie Scheffler (71) was T-34 and Tiger Woods (74) was T-86.

Scheffler had three bogeys and two birdies, one of which came late on the 17th.

Woods who began with a birdie on the 10th, had a terrible run of four bogeys in a stretch of five holes from the 16th to the second. Overall he had two birdies and six bogeys.

Summing up his day, Bhatia, said, “It was a good day. I think anything under par here is really good. Didn’t feel like I swung it great, but I managed to kind of just work my way around the golf course and hit a lot of good shots. I’m looking forward to some fresher greens in the morning and get right back to it.”

Bhatia, who has played the course before added, “It’s a different animal this week for the U.S. Open. But you kind of know where you need to hit it, and I feel like I did a nice job hitting it to 20- 30 feet all day, and hopefully some putts go down tomorrow.”

McIlroy had one of two clean cards which is a rarity for Pinehurst No. 2. He capped off his round with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, where he was taking his fourth step toward the cup when it dropped and he waved to the crowd in the double-deck grandstands.

He clarified later, “I wasn’t showing off. I thought I left it short,” McIlroy said. “But it got up there, it was nice, and a great way to finish. The way I played today, the way I hit the ball, the way I managed myself, I felt like that score was pretty deserved.”

McIlroy, who has four Majors, has not won a Major since 21014, but has four top-10 finishes in 13 starts on the PGA TOUR this season. He has had two wins at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (with Shane Lowry) and the Wells Fargo Championship. He also won the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, one of the marquee events on the DP World Tour. His wins at the Wells Fargo and the Hero Dubai Desert Classic were the fourth of his career at those events.

Cantlay played in the morning beneath a full sun, holing out from a bunker for birdie on his second hole and making a pair of birdie putts in the 20-foot range in an otherwise tidy round marred by only one bogey.

Pinehurst No. 2 was tough but also yielded more than a dozen scores under par.

Ludvig Åberg playing his first US Open shot a 66. Having turned Pro a year ago he was runner-up in the Masters.

Bryson DeChambeau, the runner-up at Valhalla in the PGA Championship last month, and Matthieu Pavon of France were at 67. Brooks Koepka (70) was T-16.

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