Rory McIlroy bravely recovered from what could have been a tournament destroying double-bogey to be just one shot from the lead heading to the weekend rounds of the 122nd U.S. Open.
McIlroy regrouped from his early round mishap to play the next 15 holes in three-under in his score of 69 to be back into the mix and just one shot from the lead with two rounds to play at the famed Brookline club in suburban Boston.
Double major-winning Collin Morikawa and fellow American Joel Dahmen at five-under with Morikawa posting a four-under 66 and Dahmen at 68 and moving a shot clear of the field at five-under.
McIlroy along with defending U.S. Open champ Jon Rahm (67), American Hayden Buckley (68) and Aaron Wise (68) share third place on four-under.
“After 36 holes in a major championship, all you want to do is put yourself right in the mix going into the weekend,” said McIlroy.
“For a little part of the day there, it seemed like I was going to be a few more behind, but I dug deep and played the last eight holes really, really well.
“That was the goal. After I bogeyed 10, I just wanted to try to shoot under par. I had some chances coming up. Just played a really clean eight holes, which was pleasing. Hit fairways, hit greens, gave myself chances. Got myself right back in the tournament.”
Standing out on McIlroy’s scorecard like the proverbial dog’s hind leg is a double-bogey ‘6’ at the par-4 third hole. McIlroy’s 214-yards second shot from the middle of the fairway was headed right, way right.
McIlroy ran to the left side of the fairway to catch sight of it disappearing into brutal-looking, deep, long rough at the top of the bunker guarding the green.
His first attempt to extricate himself failed, so did the second and with McIlroy finding the green in five but a long way from the pin, but then McIlroy pulled off a near improbable, on the hole ranked the ninth hardest on day two, holing the curling putt for a ‘6’, and when it could have easily been a ‘7’ or an ‘8’.
McIlroy took the double on the chin. What else could he do when any weekend amateur would have remarked: “Well! That’s me. See you in the clubhouse”.
“Yeah, you don’t want to try to making 30-footers for 6s, but I got it in the least amount of strokes possible on the third hole after what happened”, he said.
“Yeah, I made two bad swings today. I made a bad swing on the second shot on three, and I made a bad swing on the tee shot on 10 and limited the damage as much as I could. Those two holes cost me three shots.
“But I stayed patient, and I knew I was going to give myself chances if I just hit the ball the way I have been hitting it. Today was a really good example of just having a good attitude.
“I mean, you’re only 2-over for the day. It wasn’t disastrous. I knew I had the fifth hole coming up, the short par-4 coming up, and then I had the 8th hole, which is playing a very short par-5 today. I knew I had a couple of chances to get it back to even par, and then I three-putted 6.
“Yeah, I knew I was going to have chances, so I didn’t panic. I didn’t do anything stupid. I didn’t force anything. I was rewarded with that patience by playing a really good back nine”.
The tearaway winner of the 2011 U.S. Open kick-started his comeback with a birdie at five and while he dropped a shot at the par-3 sixth hole, it was all forward gears from thereon.
McIlroy two-putted the par-5 eighth and though he bogeyed 10, it was all blue birdie numbers from the 12th onwards holing a 13-footer at the 12th, a 15-footer at the par-5 14th and then moving into a share of second sending a 103-yard shot to the well behind the pin, and with his ball spinning a long way back to some 12-feet below the cup, and holing a fifth birdie of his round.
Disappointing news for Shane Lowry who spent an anxious afternoon before confirmation he missed the playing all four-rounds in Boston.
Lowry posted a pair of 72s to be at four-under when he completed his second round near lunch and lying at four-over, and just one place inside the then projected cut of five-under.
However, at day’s end the cut was confirmed at three-over and also ending a run of 12 majors where Lowry had not missed a cut since the 2019 PGA Championship. Lowry had hitched a ride to Boston on ‘McIlroy Airlines’, so it meant flying back to Florida on a commercial flight.
Joining Lowry with the weekend off is fellow major champs in Sergio Garcia (74 & 70), Jim Furyk (74 & 70), Webb Simpson (70 & 74), Louis Oosthuizen (77 & 69) and Phil Mickelson (78 & 73)