In authoring a historic, commanding performance over the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, McIlroy has scarcely needed good fortune. He followed his splendid opening 6-under-par 65 with a 66 Friday that was, in some ways, even more impressive, and he owes his six-shot lead over South Korea’s Y.E. Yang to one thing: his own sublime ability, which currently may be unsurpassed in golf.
“I don’t really know what to say,” McIlroy said.
A ridiculous list of numbers — numbers reminiscent of the Open’s most notable absentee, Tiger Woods — says it for him. McIlroy’s two-day total of 131 — which is 11 under on Congressional’s 7,574-yard layout — is the lowest 36-hole score in the 111-tournament history of the Open. When McIlroy’s eagle trickled in at 8, he got to 10 under for the event — double digits under par faster than anyone else, in just 26 holes. The next quickest: Gil Morgan, who needed 39 holes to reach 10 under in 1992. The only other man to lead the Open by six shots at the midway point: Woods in 2000 at Pebble Beach. (Note: The third round is underway. Click here for tee-times and here for live scoring.)
“It’s funny to me,” McIlroy said. “You know, it feels quite simple.”
Thus, the weekend will be either coronation or, frankly, catastrophe. McIlroy, 22, can’t enter a discussion about his play in major championships without a mention of a place (Augusta National), a tournament (the Masters) and a final-round score (80) that, fairly or not, define his fledgling career.
Given his domination of the field here — he had the lowest score of the day both Thursday and Friday, he has missed just four of 36 greens, and for the first 35 holes he made no score worse than par — every aspect of that round and its aftermath has been dissected.
“We had a good discussion,” said his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald. “It’s private. It stays in-house. But we both had things we had to improve on.”
Previously this week, McIlroy said he needed to stay aggressive when he had the lead, that he became tentative with his four-shot advantage on Sunday at the Masters. Friday, he added another wrinkle.
“I needed to be a little more cocky, a little more arrogant on the golf course, and think a little bit more about myself, which I’ve tried to incorporate a little bit — just on the golf course,” McIlroy said. “I just try and have a bit of an attitude.”