Rory McIlroy brilliantly ignited serious hopes of finally ending a nine-year major winning drought to be just one shot from the clubhouse lead mid-way on day two of the U.S. Open in suburban L.A.
After a dull and indifferent opening nine, McIlroy brilliantly lit up the Hollywood course with with six rousing inward half birdies in a three-under 67, moving to eight-under.
The former U.S. Open champion headed to lunch biting right at the heels of the overnight leading duo of golf’s new pair ‘Mr. 62’s in Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele, who shared the first-round lead on eight-under, and were early into their own second rounds.
American Wyndham Clark with a round of 67, enjoyed the clubhouse lead on nine-under though making his presence felt was another former U.S. Open champ in Dustin Johnson who, after taking an ‘8’ at his second, regrouped to add a 70 to his opening 64 to be well in contention at six-under
McIlroy’s round, as sensational was his finish, was still a contrasting day of two halves.
There was no shortage of superstar status with the driver but again it was the shortest club in the bag dimming any bright lights over his outward nine.
McIlroy had posted 31 putts on day one and then 15 putts over his opening nine holes on day two, and his poor putting being most noticeable under the weight of a trio of bogeys, and just a lone birdie over his outward holes.
After ‘blanking’ the assembled media a day earlier, McIlroy was at his obliging best despite an early question asking what he thinks he has learnt in some nine-years of near misses since his last major championship victory in 2014.
“No, not really. I think every major championship and every venue is different. You just have to play what the course gives you. I feel like I’m hitting the ball well. I’ve hit it well off the tee,” he said.
“I felt like coming into this week that was going to be a key for me if I could put the ball in play. You can play from there and create some scoring opportunities.
“That’s really my game plan over the next couple days. Put the ball in play off the tee, and I think I’ll be just fine from there.”
The second day in this year’s third major again dawned overcast, and a lot chillier than Thursday with players, caddies and fans suitably wrapped-up.
Mirroring the weather was McIlroy, arriving at the 10th tee dressed all in black, aside from white shoes, a white Nike ‘whoosh’ logo cap and a white glove half hanging out of his back right trousers pocket.
Black can be associated with power but it also mirrors grief and sadness, and that was the image and the sounds of despair from the crowd when he bogeyed his second, the par-3 11th in missing a curling 10-footer for par.
McIlroy’s black top was off playing the next, the par-3 12th, revealing a bright pink shirt and very timely, seeing him light-up the hole, draining a 32-footer for birdie.
There was another very audible ‘Oooh, no!’ from the crowd, and McIlroy mouthing his displeasure, and hanging back with his caddy Harry Diamond, wondering how his missed a 10-footer for birdie at the par-3 15th.
McIlroy made the turn at two-over, and moments later launched a 380-yard rocket down the first on route to a much-needed birdie while an 11-footer at the first or his 12th hole, got him back to level.
He kept the forward momentum going with birdies at his 12th and while dropping a shot at the next, McIlroy was on a mission holing birdie putts of 22-feet at his 14th and then a six-footer at next, to get back into the black at one-under.
Gone were moans of ‘Oh, no!’ from the fans, and with McIlroy back in the good books with some of the more super-critical sporting fans in America’s most populous city.
McIlroy then had the crowd really cheering the loudest for the World No.3, two-putting from 20-feet for birdie at his 17th before probably his best shot of the day, landing his tee-shot at the par-3 ninth to ‘gimme’ distance for an easy birdie ‘2’
It was a second straight day that McIlroy had produced a score of 30 over the front nine, given his second commenced at the 10th on the scorecard.
Now with 36-holes to play, and depending of course on what the afternoon players may post, McIlroy confessed how much it would mean to savour a second US Open triumph, and that long overdue major championship victory No. 5.
“I mean, I started thinking about winning this thing when I came here on Monday. I’ve already done that. No one wants to win another major — no one wants me to win another major more than I do. The desire is obviously there”, he said.
“I’ve been trying and I’ve come close over the past nine years or whatever it is, and I keep coming back. I feel like I’ve showed a lot of resilience in my career, a lot of ups and downs, and I keep coming back. And whether that means that I get rewarded or I get punched in the gut or whatever it is, I’ll always keep coming back”.