Masterful McIlroy still six clear
Rory McIlroy again bestrode Congressional like a Colossus on Friday, creating US Open history and leaving the field stunned.
Rory McIlroy again bestrode Congressional Country club like a Colossus on Friday, creating US Open history and leaving the field stunned and amazed as he more than kept the field at arms length
The curly haired star from Holywood in Northern Ireland added a best-of-the-day 5-under 66 to his masterful first round 65 to go to 131 and take a six stroke lead over South Korea’s YE Yang and a nine stroke lead over the five-strong tie for third on 2-under that included Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Americans Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Robert Garrigus and Brandt Snedeker.
McIlroy wasn’t perfect this time. He showed he was human when, at an unprecedented 13-under, he double bogeyed the last.
That one slip cost him a record – no man has ever reached the halfway stage of any major anywhere at 13-under – but in truth it only took a little gloss off his magical performance and, indeed, in the grand scale of things, was but a tiny smudge on all the gloss that has wrapped around his performances in the last two amazing days.
It was perhaps significant that 22-year-old, trying to keep the trophy in Northern Irish hands following compatriot Graeme McDowell’s victory last year, should enter the record books in dramatic fashion by sinking a 113-yard pitch for an eagle two at the eighth hole.
Following birdies at the par-four 4th hole and the vulnerable par-five sixth, that stunning eagle at the eighth took McIlroy to a 10-under total and took his heroics into the history books for it made him the first man in the 110-year history of the storied US Open to get to a 10-under tally in the second round of an event that jealously guards against high scores.
Playing partner Phil Mickelson stood and applauded as the ball spun into the cup to take the world number eight into an almost unimaginable seven-stroke lead over the game’s greatest players.
Even the legendary Tiger Woods, who has been prevented from playing this week by one going leg injuries, has never surpassed this mark at the US Open.
And yes, there was more to come.
McIlroy, once again playing with rare skill and great wisdom for one so young, would widen the gap between himself and the chasing pack when he hit his approach to within four feet at the 467-yard 14th and made no mistake with his birdie putt.
McIlroy, a few months younger than Jack Nicklaus was when he lifted the first of his 18 majors in 1962, could also become the youngest person to lift the US Open trophy since the late, great Bobby Jones in 1923 if he goes on like this.
And it looks as if it will
He produced more magic with towering iron on the long 16th that rolled up to around 10 feet from the cup and gave McIlroy a chance for a second eagle.
He didn’t make it this time, but his tap in for birdie equalled the major record of 12 under.
McIlroy then reached an unprecedented 13 under – and briefly took an amazing 10-shot advantage – when he holed from 12 feet at the 17th.
But, needing a closing par four to become the first player to break 130 for two rounds at any of the majors, he went from rough to water and ran up a double bogey.
Yang, one of the late starters, would later shoot a 2-under 69 for a 5-under finish that would narrow the gap still further but this is still a formidable lead to take into the weekend of a US Open where the USGA make a point of keeping the scores down.
Certainly McIlroy didn’t seem fazed by his 18th-hole slip.
“I’m feeling good – feeling very good,” he said.
“It’s funny to me. It feels quite simple. I’m hitting fairways, I’m hitting greens, I’m holing my fair share of putts.
“It’s been two very, very good days of golf. I’ve put myself in a great position going into the weekend.
“But I know more than probably anyone else what can happen, so I’ve got to stay really focused and try and finish this thing off.”
At The Masters in April he was four ahead with only 18 holes to go, shot 80 and lost by 10.
Winning golf’s very next major after that experience would be the stuff of dreams, and that is what it is all about – not 36-hole records or matching the six-stroke advantage Tiger Woods held at Pebble Beach in 2000.
“These records, they’re nice, but they don’t really mean anything until the end of the tournament,” he added. “If I can look back on this tournament with a trophy in my hand and look back at the records that would be nice.”
For McIlroy to be doing what he is doing at his age is truly remarkable. He is a few months younger than Jack Nicklaus was when he lifted the first of his 18 majors in 1962.
Resuming three clear, he made a 25-footer at the fourth and pitched over water to six feet for another birdie on the long sixth.
The unexpected eagle two, courtesy of spinning a 113-yard wedge into the cup, enabled him to turn in 32 and then came further birdies at the 14th from four feet, the long 16th where he actually missed a 10-foot eagle chance, and the 17th.
But then came a hook into the rough down the last and a second that curled into the water on the left. He had not had a bogey all week until then.
“It’s been very near the best I can play. The second on the eighth was a bonus, but I hit a couple of iron shots on the back nine that were so pure.
“I’m halfway there, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s a big challenge, but every time I put myself in position I am becoming more and more comfortable and that’s important.
“I felt very much at ease today – you are when you hit so many good shots.”
Yang’s 69 for five under prevented McIlroy from having a nine-shot 36-hole lead that would have equalled the biggest in all majors, a mark that has been owned by the late Sir Henry Cotton alone since 1934.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia is part of the group tied for third behind Yang on two under and five-time runner-up Mickelson would have been alongside them if he had birdied the last, but he also found water on the 18th and double-bogeyed for a 69 and one-over total.
England’s Robert Rock – whose visa problems ensured he arrived only at 3.30am Thursday – remained one under after a 71, but admitted jet-lag had caught up with him.
Padraig Harrington and defending champion McDowell were both two over after rounds of 73 and 74 respectively, while Lee Westwood had improved from four over overnight to one over with one to play.
Playing partner and world number one Luke Donald stood three over, just a stroke inside a halfway cut mark that was going to claim Scots Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and England’s Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, David Howell, Robert Dinwiddie and Matt Richardson.
Donald’s closing bogey for a 72 and a four-over aggregate meant that at joint 58th he had to wait for confirmation he was still in the tournament when the weather delayedb second round was completed on Saturday morning.
Fortunately he awoke to good news. He had made the cut by one shot.
Westwood parred the last for a 68, a
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