Tony Finau's press with Pinehurst opens with red number, 3 off US Open lead


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SALT LAKE CITY — Tony Finau battled and grinded and missed his fair share of greens, by his own admittance.

But when he made the final stroll off the ninth hole after opening his ninth consecutive U.S. Open, he did so just three shots off the lead.

The Rose Park native carded 2-under-par 68 in the opening round of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Golf Club in North Carolina, enough to stay within striking distance of the top contenders — including a former Utah junior golf friend.

"It's not as firm yet as I think that it's going to be on the weekend," Finau said. "There were definitely some dicey pins already today. As expected, there's going to be dicey pins all week."

Patrick Cantlay shot 5-under 65 to tie for the lead with Rory McIlroy, Finau's longtime friend from the duo's youth days playing Utah junior golf tournaments while the Northern Ireland native spent a summer living in Orem. Sweden's Ludvig Aberg is one shot back in third, followed by French native Matthieu Pavon and Bryson DeChambeau at 3-under 67.

Finau is tied with Tyrrell Hatton and Akshay Bhatia for sixth, while fellow Utah native Zac Blair shot even-par 70 to finished tied for 16th.

Playing the back nine first, Finau opened with a birdie on the par-5, 619-yard 10th hole before wrapping up his first nine at 2-under 33 with a birdie on the par-4, 435-yard No. 18. The West High graduate pulled out of a jam with his first bogey on the par-4 second hole, pulled it back — and then some — with birdies on the fifth and seventh holes, and finished with a bogey on the par-3 ninth to get into the clubhouse below par.

"Getting off to a good start in any major championship is important," Finau said. "U.S. Open, if you can post a red number early, it's a golf tournament that, you said it right on the button, I don't feel like I have to do extra and chase guys down. I'm right in position after round one, which is key if you're trying to win a major."

Finau will tee off Friday at 11:36 a.m. MDT with Aberg and Dustin Johnson. Blair is scheduled to go off an hour later at 12:31 p.m. MDT with Aaron Rai and Davis Thompson.

Each round will be streamed live on Peacock.

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