History on Rory McIlroy’s side as he bids for US Open glory
History was on Rory McIlroy’s side as he went into the third round of the US Open firmly in contention for a fifth major title and first since 2014.
Yet the same could be said for some formidable opponents in the shape of two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and defending champion Jon Rahm.
McIlroy recovered from a double bogey on the third hole in round two to card a 69 and halfway total of four under par, one shot off the lead shared by Open champion Morikawa and fellow American Joel Dahmen.
Rahm, Hayden Buckley, Aaron Wise and Beau Hossler were alongside McIlroy in third place and, statistically at least, in the strongest position to end up lifting the trophy at Brookline on Sunday evening.
That is because 25 of the last 26 US Open winners were tied sixth or better after 36 holes, with Webb Simpson the lone exception when he came from six shots behind and joint 29th at The Olympic Club in 2012.
Masters champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler was just two shots off the lead in a five-strong group on three under, albeit in a tie for eighth.
Despite having won the Open last year and the US PGA Championship in 2020, Morikawa held a share of the halfway lead in a major for the first time as he looked to create history with a third victory in just his 11th start.
Since the first Masters was held in 1934 the fastest any player has got to three major wins is 12 starts, the late Australian Peter Thomson doing so courtesy of his hat-trick of Open titles from 1954-56.
A victory this weekend would also give Morikawa the third leg of the career grand slam and leave him, like McIlroy, needing to win the Masters to join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen in golf’s most prestigious club.
There was at least some good news for fans of the likes of Dahmen, Buckley, Wise and Hossler, who could take heart from the 1995 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the last time the world’s top three were all in the top 10 at halfway.
Greg Norman, Nick Price and Nick Faldo were the men in question on that occasion but none of them went on to win, Corey Pavin coming from six shots behind at halfway to finish two ahead of Norman.
Sixty four players had made the halfway cut at three over par, with Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia among those to miss out by a single shot.
Lowry found himself on the wrong side of the draw, with those playing early on Thursday and late on Friday averaging 1.6 strokes lower than the other half of the field.
And the 2019 Open champion was not impressed to see some of the greens apparently being watered during play on Friday, writing “In what stratosphere is this fair @usga” over an Instagram image of staff spraying the 13th green.
Those who did make the cut were separated by just eight shots and no doubt all still eyeing the record first prize of 3.15million US dollars, 850,000 dollars less than the individual winner’s cheque in last week’s first LIV Golf event at Centurion Club.
Steve Stricker makes Padraig Harrington sweat as Irishman wins US Senior Open
The pair were rival captains in last year’s Ryder Cup in Wisconsin.
Golfers warned of further sanctions if they continue to play in LIV breakaway
The DP World Tour has issued fines of £100,000 and tournament bans to its members who played in the inaugural LIV Golf event earlier this month
DP World Tour hits members who played inaugural LIV series with £100,000 fines
They have also been banned from several forthcoming tournaments including the Scottish Open.
Rory McIlroy not impressed as Brooks Koepka becomes latest big name to join LIV
The world number two labelled the players who have joined the new series as “duplicitous” for the way they have handled their breakaway.
R&A confirms LIV Golf Series players will be allowed to compete at Open
The 150th Open Championship will get underway at St Andrews in three weeks’ time.
Matt Fitzpatrick turns to other major winners for advice on dealing with fame
Fitzpatrick won the US Open on Sunday.
Brooks Koepka set to join Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series
Koepka’s brother Chase played in the opening event at Centurion Club earlier this month.
Gary Player urges Matt Fitzpatrick to avoid ‘poison’ of modern-day coaching
Player tells US Open champion Fitzpatrick to learn from mistakes of recent major winners, saying: “The teaching today is the worst it has ever been.”
Matt Fitzpatrick’s caddie Billy Foster ready for ‘long party’ after US Open win
Foster won his first major after a 40-year career which includes spells working for the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
Matt Fitzpatrick backed to become a dominant force after winning first major
The Englishman claimed his first major title at Brookline.