Shropshire Star

Midlands duo hit form at Pinehurst

Midland duo Aaron Rai and Robert Rock enjoyed impressive starts to the US Open at Pinehurst.


Wolverhampton ace Rai, who now lives in the States and plays on the PGA Tour, shot a one under par round of 69.

Rai teed-off from the 10th and birdied the 12th before dropping a shot at the 14th. But a three at the 18th saw him turn in one under.

He was back to level after dropping a shot at the second before a birdie took him back below par.

When the former Shropshire & Herefordshire junior headed in to mark his card he was lying tied for fifth, four shots behind the early pacesetter, America’s Patrick Cantlay.

“I’m really pleased overall,” said Rai. “I wasn’t sure how difficult the course was going to play.

“I was fortunate getting out early in the morning, it wasn’t super firm. But it’s an extremely difficult course and anything under par is a good score.”

But Rai’s performance was arguably upstaged by Rock.

The 47-year-old from Armitage, near Rugeley retired from professional golf in October 2022 but could not resist potentially his last chance to enter final qualifying for the event.

And after securing his place at Walton Heath, Rock enjoyed his day out with the golfing elite as he carded a level par round of 70, which included birdies at the third and 14th along with bogeys at the fourth and seventh.

But it was a tougher day for the other Midlander in the field, Burntwood’s Richard Mansell.

He is battling to make the weekend cut after an eight over par round of 78.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods became an early casualty of what he had predicted would be a “war of attrition”at Pinehurst.

Woods made the ideal start to his opening round with a birdie on his first hole of the day, but the 15-time major winner could only register one more and six bogeys in a disappointing 74.

That left Woods nine shots behind the early clubhouse lead held by Cantlay, who carded six birdies in a five-under-par 65.

Sweden’s rising star Ludvig Aberg returned a four-under 66 on his US Open debut.

France’s Matthieu Pavon was a shot behind Aberg after becoming the first player to make multiple eagles in a US Open round at Pinehurst.

Pavon, who won his first PGA Tour title in January, eagled the fifth and 10th on his way to an opening 67.