McIlroy grinds to stay in the hunt on testing morning at Pinehurst

Mark McGowan

Rory McIlroy hits a chip shot on 17 in round two of the 2024 U.S. Open (Logan Whitton/USGA)

Mark McGowan

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After covering the opening 18 without a blemish on his card and jotting fours on both Pinehurst’s par-5s, the early morning dew meant he couldn’t reach the green in two on his opening hole – the par-5 10th – and was forced to settle for par and then carded his first bogey of the day on the next when a pulled wedge shot fed back off the slope and off the green.

Looking a little less assured than he had on Thursday, he’d leave himself long birdie tries on 12 and 13, and missed a 10-footer for birdie on 14, before making his second bogey of the day on the par-3 15th, again after watching his approach feed off the false front.

The key turning point came on 17, when, mindful of the steep slope just short of the pin, a safety-in-mind tee shot finished 46 feet behind the flag. He got a little too aggressive with his birdie putt and watched it pick up speed approaching the hole, slipping by and off the front edge of the green.

Staring a potential double bogey in the face, his chip was hit to perfection, and was tracking all the way before dropping for the most unusual of pars.

The first birdie of the day arrived on the third after a pinpoint wedge from 150 set up a seven-footer, and he’d come desperately close to another at the next when his long birdie putt came up a single roll shy.

The pin position on the par-5 fifth was probably the most brutal of the day, and McIlroy’s second shot was a yard or two too far left, feeding off the green into the waste area. It was a similar story for Schauffele and Scheffler, and when both of those ended up making seven, Rory’s par was more than satisfactory in comparison.

His luck ran out on the final hole, however, as a mishit tee shot to the par-3 found a plugged lie in the bunker and after blasting out to 15 feet, couldn’t hole the putt and slipped back to -3 after a two-over 72.

“Yeah, obviously not quite as well as yesterday,” he replied when asked to assess his round, “but I feel like the golf course played a little more difficult, even though we were off in the morning. Some of the hole locations were definitely a little tougher. Sort of had to have your wits about you. I putted it off the green there on 17.

“Yeah, overall I felt like I did a pretty good job at keeping some of the mistakes off the scorecard. I wish I had converted a couple more of the chances. Hit the ball pretty well. I think only missed one fairway. So I had plenty of opportunities.

“Yeah, wasn’t quite as good with the putter today. Still overall in a great position going into the weekend.

“I was 2-over pretty early. My goal going into that second nine was if I could get it back to even for the day, I would have been pretty happy. Got that birdie on 3. I was trying to claw one back there. Ultimately I gave one back again.

“Yeah, with the way the golf course is and the way some of those hole locations are, I don’t see anyone running away with it today, building up too much of a lead.

“That’s certainly what Martin did a few years ago here. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out this afternoon.”

Shane Lowry’s morning was a lot less eventful. The Offaly man carded 13 straight pars before finally opening his birdie account on the fifth hole, miraculously getting up-and-down for a four on the hole that had tamed Scheffler and Schauffele just a few groups before.

With the provisional cutline holding firm at +4 in the early stages, but likely to move to +5 or even +6 as the course firms up for the afternoon groups, the birdie afforded a little more breathing room but bogeys on the sixth and ninth holes saw him slip back to +5 and he’ll have an anxious wait to see whether or not he’s got a weekend tee time.

Seamus Power and Tom McKibbin are among the late starters and both will have their work cut out to see weekend action based on the scores recorded by most of the early wave.


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