Rory McIlroy fights back to stay right in US Open mix

Gary Woodland takes the lead after a 65 while Graeme McDowell stays in contention

Rory McIlroy reacts after making a birdie from off the green on the 16th hole during the second round of the 119th US Open Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Photo: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Rory McIlroy reacts after making a birdie from off the green on the 16th hole during the second round of the 119th US Open Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Photo: Erik S Lesser/EPA

 

Should Rory McIlroy summon the weekend spirit of Ontario, there would be little point in the remainder of this US Open field turning up for rounds three and four. Alas, professional golf remains an unpredictable beast. An outlandish Friday finish from Gary Woodland also supplied a degree of separation which, even with 36 holes to go, may prove pivotal. Woodland holed out from 49ft at the last for a 65 and two-shot lead, at nine under par.

McIlroy was already in contention for what would be a first major success since 2014 before stepping to Pebble Beach’s 1st tee on Friday. What transpired thereafter – if at varying levels – endorsed the Northern Irishman’s claims. Just days after swaggering to Canadian Open glory with closing rounds of 64 and 61, the 30-year-old is in the mix again. “Another couple of rounds in the 60s and I’ll take my chances,” said a bullish McIlroy.

Graeme McDowell – who won this tournament at this venue in 2010 – remains in contention after a round of 70 which leaves him at three under. McDowell carded two bogeys in his first three holes but then reeled off four straight birdies with a fifth coming at the 10th. However, two dropped shots on the way in means he sits six behind Woodland.

McDowell plays a shot on the third hole. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
McDowell plays a shot on the third hole. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Shane Lowry battled hard to make the cut thanks to a round of 69. The Offalyman’s four birdies and two bogeys were enough to move him to two over par to make the weekend right on the cut mark.

Woodland’s statistics give the impression a penny has dropped. His first 27 major appearances came and went without a top 10 finish. He has delivered two in his last three. Woodland’s Friday inward half of 31 meant he initially tied, then waved goodbye to Justin Rose. Context was supplied by history; Woodland’s 133 strokes is one better than Tiger Woods at the same stage here in the US Open of 2000. Woods led the field by six.

McIlroy’s round wasn’t without drama. His opening 12 holes were as comfortable, particularly on the greens, as is possible in a US Open setting. He had reached six under par for the tournament and was within one of the lead when failing to rescue par from a greenside bunker at the 13th. One hole later, a double bogey seven took McIlroy back to the three under par position he had started day two at. McIlroy had just 107 yards into the pin with his third shot at the 14th. What happened next was somewhat ghoulish.

To McIlroy’s credit, and in displaying fortitude he typically isn’t afforded credit for, he responded with back-to-back birdies. A 69 leaves him four from the leaderboard’s summit at the halfway stage. A standard McIlroy strength, par five scoring, has thus far been a relative weakness; he played has those holes in plus two. “Yes, I need to improve that but I’ve obviously played some good golf to be two over there yet five under for the tournament,” McIlroy said.

“I bounced back well today. Those birdies on 15 and 16 felt huge to get me back in this tournament for the weekend. I need to keep it going; fairways, greens. It sounds boring and cliched but that’s what you need to do round here. The course is only going to get tougher.”

Rose’s 70 meant he held the Friday lead on his own at seven under par before Woodland’s late afternoon surge. This has been a very un-Rose-like performance. The Englishman’s short game, frequently an achilles heel, has saved him time and again. Through two rounds, the 2013 US Open champion has required just 49 putts. Cynics may suggest that touch is unlikely to continue as the event hurtles towards conclusion.

“I have no expectations for the weekend really,” Rose insisted. “I like my position, I like the golf course, I like the way I’m trending. I still don’t feel like I’m clicking but if I can find that gear hopefully I can hoist some silverware. So there is work to be done this weekend for sure.

“You always need your short game in a US Open. You miss a fairway and it’s like losing half a shot. The goal for the rest of the hole is; how do you get that shot back. It’s normally with a great short game or a great putt. So the fact my short game feels sharp takes a bit or pressure off the long game.”

McIlroy lines up his putt on the sixth green during the second round. Photo: Etienne Laurent/EPA
McIlroy lines up his putt on the sixth green during the second round. Photo: Etienne Laurent/EPA

Louis Oosthuizen’s brilliantly erratic back nine included just one par. The end result was a 70 and six under total. Aaron Wise sits alongside McIlroy at minus five. Rickie Fowler surprisingly followed up a 66 with a 77.

Brooks Koepka became the first defending champion since 1988 to open with successive sub-70 rounds. Koepka, seeking a third win in a row at this major, has signed for 69s two days in a row meaning he lies five from the lead. “I feel great,” Koepka insisted. “I’m excited. I’ve got a chance. That’s all you can ask for. I just need to make a few putts.”

Woods cut an agitated post-round figure having bogeyed his last two holes on the way to a 72. At even par on aggregate, Woods has considerable weekend ground to make up. This isn’t an insurmountable task for the 15-times major champion but the depth of talent ahead of him on the leaderboard will be of concern. Woods blamed continually leaving himself downhill putts for Friday’s struggles. The result is an uphill task.

Comedic scene of the day, in its dying stages, was delivered by Patrick Reed. The 2018 Masters champion snapped his lob wedge over his knee in a fit of pique, following a botched chip at the 18th. Tut, tut. – Guardian

Collated second round scores & totals in the 119th U.S. Open, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California, United States of America (USA unless stated, Irish in bold, par 71):

133 Gary Woodland 68 65

135 Justin Rose (En) 65 70

136 Louis Oosthuizen (Za) 66 70

137 Rory McIlroy (NI) 68 69, Aaron Wise 66 71

138 Brooks Koepka 69 69, Matt Wallace (En) 70 68, Chesson Hadley 68 70, Matt Kuchar 69 69, Chez Reavie 68 70

139 Xander Schauffele 66 73, Zach Johnson 70 69, Graeme McDowell (NI) 69 70, Adam Scott (Au) 70 69, Scott Piercy 67 72, Jon Rahm (Es) 69 70, Sergio Garcia (Es) 69 70, Henrik Stenson (Se) 68 71

140 Francesco Molinari (It) 68 72, Brandon Wu (a) 71 69, Sepp Straka (At) 68 72, Harris English 71 69, Dustin Johnson 71 69, Jim Furyk 73 67, Carlos Oritz (Mx) 70 70, Matthew Fitzpatrick (En) 69 71

141 Haotong Li (Cn) 71 70, Phil Mickelson 72 69, Jason Dufner 70 71, Nate Lashley 67 74, Jordan Spieth 72 69

142 Charlie Danielson 72 70, Hideki Matsuyama (Jp) 69 73, Tiger Woods 70 72, Viktor Hovland (a) (No) 69 73, Byeong-Hun An (Kr) 70 72, Danny Willett (En) 71 71, Charles Howell III 72 70, Webb Simpson 74 68, Emiliano Grillo (Ar) 68 74, Abraham Ancer (Mx) 74 68, Paul Casey (En) 70 72, Luke Donald (En) 72 70

(a), Chandler Eaton 72 70

143 Jason Day (Au) 70 73, Andy Pope 72 71, Rory Sabbatini (Sk) 72 71, Daniel Berger 73 70, Billy Hurley III 73 70, Cameron Smith (Au) 71 72, Marc Leishman (Au) 69 74, Bryson DeChambeau 69 74, Billy Horschel 73 70, Rickie Fowler 66 77, Kevin Kisner 73 70

144 Marcus Kinhult (Se) 74 70, Brian Stuard 71 73, Andrew Putnam 73 71, Rhys Enoch (Wa) 78 66, Martin Kaymer (De) 69 75, Patrick Cantlay 73 71, Alex Prugh 75 69, Shane Lowry (Irl) 75 69, Tommy Fleetwood (En) 71 73, Nick Taylor (Ca) 74 70, Erik Van Rooyen (Za) 71 73, Bernd Wiesberger (At) 71 73, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Es) 70 74, Patrick Reed 71 73, Adri Arnaus (Es) 69 75, Kyle Stanley 71 73, Clement Sordet (Fr) 76 68, (a) Michael Thorbjornsen 71 73, Tom Hoge 71 73, Tyrrell Hatton (En) 70 74, Collin Morikawa 71 73, Justin Walters (Za) 72 72, Brandt Snedeker 75 69, Chip McDaniel 71 73

The following players missed the cut

145 Matt Jones (Au) 74 71, Lucas Glover 73 72, Nick Hardy 73 72, Branden Grace (Za) 74 71, (a) Spencer Tibbits 74 71, Lee Slattery (En) 73 72, Ollie Schniederjans 75 70, Rob Oppenheim 73 72, Joseph Bramlett 73 72

146 Luke List 74 72, Justin Harding (Za) 73 73, David Toms 72 74, Hayden Shieh 77 69, Julian Etulain (Ar) 76 70, Tony Finau 74 72, (a) Jovan Rebula (Za) 70 76, Scottie Scheffler 72 74, Justin Thomas 73 73, Brendon Todd 72 74, Ian Poulter (En) 73 73, Jimmy Walker 75 71m Keith Mitchell 76 70

147 (a) Chun An Yu (Tp) 74 73, Alex Noren (Se) 75 72, Matthieu Pavon (Fr) 73 74, Ryan Fox (Nz) 74 73, Sam Saunders 72 75, (a) Austin Eckroat 72 75, Joel Dahmen 75 72, Aaron Baddeley (Au) 72 75, Dean Burmester (Za) 76 71, Patton Kizzire 80 67

148 Ernie Els (Za) 75 73, Thorbjorn Olesen (Dk) 71 77, Mike Weir (Ca) 74 74, Mikumu Horikawa (Jp) 73 75, Cody Gribble 74 74, Callum Tarren (En) 73 75

149 Stewart Hagestad (a) 74 75, Guillermo Pereira (Cl) 77 72, (a) Luis Gagne (Cr) 71 78, Renato Paratore (It) 75 74, Kevin Na 72 77, Keegan Bradley 73 76, J.B. Holmes 72 77, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Th) 75 74, Sam Horsfield (En) 75 74, (a) Daniel Hillier (Nz) 76 73, Jhonattan Vegas (Ve) 72 77

150 Richard Lee (Nz) 72 78, Luke Guthrie 75 75, Shugo Imahira (Jp) 75 75, Connor Arendell 77 73, (a) Kevin O’Connell 76 74, Bubba Watson 75 75, Kyoung-hoon Lee (Kr) 76 74, Si Woo Kim (Kr) 76 74

151 Brian Davis (En) 75 76, (a) Cameron Young 75 76, Matt Parziale (a) 74 77, Anirban Lahiri (In) 74 77

152 Chan Kim 77 75, Ryan Sullivan 73 79, Marcus Fraser (Au) 73 79, Thomas Pieters (Be) 76 76

153 Matthew Naumec 74 79, Brett Drewitt (Au) 77 76, Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tw) 80 73

154 Kodai Ichihara (Jp) 80 74

155 Lucas Bjerregaard (Dk) 80 75, Roberto Castro 78 77, (a) Noah Norton 80 75, Zac Blair 83 72

156 Andreas Halvorsen (No) 74 82

158 Merrick Bremner (Za) 79 79, Eric Dietrich 83 75

162 (a) Devon Bling 82 80

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.