Target No. 1 was McIlroy, the cheerful, fluid, joyous Irishman, just 23, who’d turned Congressional into his personal snake-free Garden of Eden. Just as the Massacre at Winged Foot in ’74 was the USGA’s rebuttal after Johnny Miller shot an insolent 63 on Sunday to win at Oakmont, so this week will be remembered as Revenge for Rory. Every mother’s son in golf will suffer here for all the record smashing by McIlroy last year, especially his first 36 holes at 65-66 — 131, 11 under par.
We regret to report that the hit put out on charming Rory, and the rest of a suffering field, was successful. One moment Friday captured the torture of the 112th U.S. Open. All the fun, oh, horrors, fun, at Congressional is now just a fast-fading memory. Watch the weekend, beverage in hand, in your hair shirt.
Hard as it may be to believe, McIlroy had to sink an eight-foot putt to avoid four-putting from 15 feet — yes, four-putting from 15 feet — on his final hole of the second round. He drained it. But even that was bad enough as he finished with a gruesome 77-73 — 150, 10 over par — missing the cut with a number 21 shots higher, relative to par, than in 2011.
Stunned, almost in disbelief, McIlroy dismissed the “flash” interviews that are usually given after even the most embarrassing rounds. Instead, he burrowed straight into his locker, spending a half hour, head sunk, packing his gear for the long flight home to Holywood, Ireland.
“I had a 15-footer for birdie,” McIlroy said of his final hole (the par-three 8th). “I thought if I holed it, I might still make the cut. But once I missed that one [leaving a three-footer], I knew I probably wouldn’t make it through to the weekend.”
McIlroy careless knocked his third putt eight feet past the hole. As almost every player has said after staggering off Olympic, “It never lets up.” You can’t lose focus or allow your ball get out of proper strategic position for an instant.
As the day progressed, the projected cut hung at 8 over, tending toward 9 over, the score McIlroy could probably have had if he’d focused on that last three-foot par putt. “If the cut is 9 over, I won’t be feeling too good tonight on the way home,” he said.
“This course is just so punishing. . . . I felt I really turned a corner last week,” said McIlroy, who was in contention until the 72nd hole at Memphis. “Obviously disappointed. It wasn’t the way I wanted to play . . . but to be honest, overall, I don’t feel like I played that badly for the last two days . . . at a normal Tour [event], I’d probably be thereabouts the lead.”