Golf-McIlroy in the dark about late birdies at U.S. Open

Jun 17, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; Rory McIlroy plays a shot from a bunker on the 16th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy might want to consider putting with his eyes closed after the way he finished the opening round at the U.S. Open on Thursday.

McIlroy banged in putts of 20 and seven feet respectively at the final two holes in near darkness at Torrey Pines to boost his chances of at least having a chance to end a seven-year major championship winning drought.

Never mind that he could barely see the hole, he struck his uphill birdie putt at the 18th with such conviction that it banged against the back of the cup at speed and fell in.

"The birdie is awesome," said a delighted Northern Irishman of his effort at the last.

"I mean, that putt was pretty, I was sort of like, I think it's straight, I'll hit it straight and we'll see.

"But, yeah, it was nice to get in, get an extra hour of sleep tonight and it was a bonus to birdie in as well."

He was one of the last players to finish the round, with 36 others having to return early on Friday to complete the final few holes, a result of a morning fog delay of minutes that backed up the afternoon tee times.

McIlroy badly needed a solid start after shooting himself out of contention before he had barely started at the year's previous two majors.

He shot an opening 76 and subsequently missed the cut at the Masters, while at the PGA Championship he opened with 75 and never in the hunt en route to a tie for 49th.

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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