Rose hanging in there at Pinehurst

Justin Rose staged a late rally in Thursday’s first round to keep his hopes of winning back-to-back US Open titles alive.

The Englishman was struggling at four over par after nine holes, despite getting the best of the conditions, but managed to recover somewhat with three birdies in the next five holes.

A duffed chip on the eighth cost him another shot, but a two-over-par 72 leaves him still in with a shout at a difficult Pinehurst No 2.

“I’ve got to play some great golf the rest of the week,” Rose admitted after his round. “I had to do that pretty much no matter whether you shot 66 today or 72. If I shot 66 I wouldn’t be here thinking, well, that’s won me the tournament. A 72 certainly hasn’t lost me the tournament.

“I was telling myself if I get it back to two over and then shoot one under each for the next two days… that’s the way I try to break it down. I shot two under on the back nine today and got myself back to two over, and even par is within striking distance. If I play well I feel I can get it under par.”

The 33-year-old, looking to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to make a successful title defence, added: “Being a different golf course I never really treated it as being defending champion.

“It was always going to be a new test so I just try to focus on the golf course. I feel like I’m playing pretty free out there. I feel like I’m playing the golf course more aggressively each day.”