BROOKLINE, Mass. — Rory McIlroy has won four major championships, and none of the other big names at the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard can say the same. Advantage, McIlroy.
Rory McIlroy has not won a major championship in nearly eight years, and the other big names at the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard cannot say the same. Advantage, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler.
Will the positive reality of a cramped trophy case trump the fact McIlroy hasn’t won a big one since the summer of 2014? Or will the “drought” ultimately put swing thoughts in McIlroy’s head over the weekend that will inspire his undoing at The Country Club?
“I think I have to go out with the mindset this week that I’m going to try to win my first again,” McIlroy said Friday after shooting an adventurous 1-under 69 in the second round — including not one, but two virtual whiffs on the third hole — to stand at 4-under, one stroke behind the lead shared by Morikawa and Joel Dahmen.
“I’m playing as good a golf as I’ve played in a long time. I have a lot of experience. Yes, I’ve won major championships and other big events, but just because I’ve done that, it doesn’t mean that I’ll hit better golf shots or I’ll hit better putts. I’m in a good place. I’m really happy with where my game is at, and I think that’s the most important thing.”
On a certain level, after his near-disaster at the par-4 third, McIlroy is lucky he’s in the same zip code as the leaders. He endeared himself to every 24-handicapper in the crowd from the deep greenside fescue when he barely moved his ball with one wedge shot, and then another, before pitching onto the green for a long attempt at double bogey.
“You don’t want to try to be making 30-footers for 6’s,” McIlroy said, after doing just that, sinking a putt that will be a part of Rory lore forever if he wins this tournament.
“I got in in the least amount of strokes possible on that hole after what happened,” he said. “I made two bad swings today. I made a bad swing on the second shot on 3, 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’ve been hitting it. Today was a really good example of just having a good attitude. … I didn’t do anything stupid.”
McIlroy played his last eight holes in 3-under and said he “couldn’t be any happier” with his 36-hole position. Asked about the opportunity to battle the other marquee names at the top of the leaderboard this weekend, McIlroy said:
“That’s why we play. … You want to go up against the best to try to bring the best out of yourself. And to see Collin and Jon and Scottie … up there and whoever else, that’s what major championship golf is all about. That’s what competition is all about.
“I certainly don’t want it to be easy. I want guys to go out and shoot 65 so I have to go and shoot 64. That’s competition, and that’s at the heart of this game.”