Rory McIlroy flirted with total disaster but recovered from one of the best double-bogeys of his career en route to a super 69 that left him just a shot behind clubhouse leader Collin Morikawa in the US Open at Brookline.
eigning Open champion Morikawa, the 2020 PGA champion, made five birdies in a four-under 66 to set the clubhouse target at five-under-par in his quest for the third leg of the career grand slam.
The Californian led by a shot from defending champion Jon Rahm (67) and qualifier Hayden Buckley from Mississippi (68) as McIlroy rolled in birdie putts on the 12th, 14th and 16th to join the chasers on four-under-par wit ha second round 69.
Bidding for his first major win for eight years, the four-time major champion flirted with a potential tournament wrecking disaster at the 496-yard third when he sliced his approach into deep fescue and needed three hacks to get the ball on the green.
He left himself a 30-footer for a double-bogey and rolled it in for a six that must have felt like a birdie.
The Ulsterman then used his power to make a birdie at the 305-yard fifth, driving within 30 feet of the hole.
The world number three would hand that shot back with a three-putt bogey at the 165-yard sixth, where he hit his first putt 10 feet past.
But while he showed resilience with a chip-and-putt birdie at the par-five eighth and turned in one-over 36, he immediately dropped a shot at the difficult, 504-yard, par-four 10th.
The putter has been McIlroy’s friend this week, however, and he rolled in a 30-footer for birdie at the 12th to get back to two-under for the tournament and finished strongly.
The Holywood star has power to spare and he made it count at the 616-yard 14th, which he reduced to a 350-yard drive and a 260-yard long-iron to 60 feet followed by a magnificently judged lag putt to a few inches.
Back to level for the day, three-under for the championship, McIlroy was back unto a tie for third place.
He burned the edge from 20 feet at the 15th, catching the lip but rolled in an eight-footer for par at the short16th, then knocked in a 10-footer for another birdie at the 17th to get into the red for the day.
On his double bogey save, he said: “It was massive and I came back really well after that. I knew I had a lot of chances coming up at the fifth and eighth chances on the back nine as well.
“I kept telling myself I had chances and I was really proud that I was able to get it in under par. I didn’t panic and do anything stupid.
“I was trying to make birdie there on 18 to try and get in the final group but I’m very happy with my position. I came back well today after a tough start so I’m very happy.”
World number one and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was just two behind on three-under after a 67 alongside qualifier Nick Hardy (68), Australia’s Matthew NeSmith (69) and Patrick Rodgers (68).
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick (70), American Sam Burns (70) and first round leader, Canadian Adam Hadwin (72) were just three shots behind Morikawa on two-under.