|-5 J Thomas (US); -4 P Reed (US); -3 R McIlroy (NI); -2 J Kokrak (US), B Todd (US), H English (US)|
|Selected others: -1 D Thompson (US) (A); E M Wallace (Eng); +1 A Sullivan (Eng); +3 J Rose (Eng), T Woods (US); +4 T Hatton (Eng), T Lewis (Eng)|
Rory McIlroy played his way into contention on day one of the US Open as he finished two strokes behind early leader Justin Thomas at Winged Foot.
The Northern Irishman, playing in his first major since becoming a father last month, opened with a credible three-under-par 67 in New York.
Thomas birdied the 18th to move clear of fellow American Patrick Reed and set the clubhouse lead at five under par.
Reed put himself in contention with a hole in one at the par-three seventh.
World number one Dustin Johnson, six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson and defending champion Gary Woodland are among those to head out in the later session.
McIlroy’s wife Erica gave birth to daughter Poppy two weeks ago and the 31-year-old said being a dad “makes the hard days a little easier to get over”.
The world number four had no reason to feel disheartened as one of the morning starters, however, hitting the turn at three under par after beginning his round on the 10th tee.
McIlroy, chasing a fifth major title and first since 2014, opened the tournament with a birdie and added another at 13th and completed an impressive opening nine holes with another on the 18th.
He bogeyed the first, his 10th, but a superb par-saving putt on the second was followed by birdie at the par-three third to move back within one stroke of leader Thomas.
The former world number one then drove the sixth green to set up long-range eagle chance that would have handed him the lead, only to three putt and make par.
McIlroy, who spoke about the importance of a good start earlier this week, will be encouraged by a 67 that is his lowest opening round in the US Open since 2011 at Congressional, where he went on to win by eight shots.
“First round of a major you’re always anxious to play well and maybe I’ve overthought it at times,” he said. “I just went out and took what was given to me a little more relaxed and played really nicely.
“I think at a US Open, if you can get off to a good start, you’re not chasing as much. And when you chase on US Open golf courses, that’s when you can start to make mistakes and compound your errors.”
McIlroy’s playing partner Justin Rose found the notoriously difficult West Course harder to master as the Englishman, winner of this title in 2013, finished his opening round at three over par.
Thomas sets the clubhouse lead
Thomas, playing alongside 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, bogeyed the tricky par-three third to wipe off an opening birdie, but another birdie at six followed by three in a row around the turn put him in pole position.
Thomas then held a lengthy discussion with a rules official over a bunker shot at 17 and, after being told not to alter his lie, found another bunker beside the green.
The 27-year-old clipped out superbly and tapped in for par to maintain his lead heading to the last, where he rolled in his sixth birdie of the day to move clear of Reed.
Woods had rallied his way to one under par with three successive birdies through the turn and was walking after another birdie putt at 12 to make it four on the bounce, only to watch it lip out.
It was a card littered with bogeys for the 44-year-old, who dropped eight shots including a double bogey at the last to leave him three over par.
However, American Davis Thompson, who at one point climbed to four under, enjoyed a dream start as he carded a one-under-par 69 to become the first amateur to break 70 in a US Open at Winged Foot since Bobby Jones, who went on to win the tournament in 1929.