Rory McIlroy overcame a rough two-hole stretch on the back nine to remain firmly in the thick of contention at the 2019 U.S. Open. He wrapped up his second round with a 69 that dropped his 36-hole score to five under par.
On the heels of his win last week at the RBC Canadian Open and an opening-round 68 at Pebble Beach, McIlroy sounded like his confidence continued to grow when speaking to reporters Thursday:
"I hit it in the fairways for the most part, I hit a lot of greens and even when I didn't hit some greens I was able to get it up and down.
"I feel like I did everything you need to do in a US Open. I stayed patient. I bogeyed the first hole and then played really solid golf after that—four-under for my last 17 without a bogey. I did what you are supposed to do at a US Open—made lot of pars, chip off the birdies when you can and it was a good day's work."
McIlroy made it through the first 12 holes Friday without a bogey. He gave one shot back on No. 13 when his tee shot went into the bunker and he missed a six-foot par putt. That came after the 2011 U.S. Open champion saved par on the previous hole with this 20-footer:
Things went from frustrating to disastrous for McIlroy on No. 14. He's been unable to take advantage of par-fives through the first two rounds, but this one turned into a complete mess.
The four-time grand slam champion caught more grass than ball on his fourth shot, hitting it 36 feet into the bunker in front of the hole. He followed that by missing a bogey putt from 10 feet out two shots later and was forced to take a seven.
Until that two-hole run, McIlroy made a significant climb up the leaderboard and got within one shot of the lead thanks to strong putting:
Despite those struggles, McIlroy quickly got back on track with two impressive birdies on Nos. 15 and 16:
That turnaround could end up being the biggest moment of the entire weekend for McIlroy. Instead of going into the third round at least four shots off the pace, the 30-year-old finished within striking distance of Gary Woodland atop the leaderboard.
McIlroy didn't always make things easy on himself in the second round, but the final result is exactly what he needed to make his presence felt going into moving day.
Last week in Canada, McIlroy saved his best golf for the final two rounds. The Irish star finished with scores of 64 and 61 to win by seven shots.
Even though it's unlikely he will go that low at Pebble Beach, McIlroy has proven he's capable of doing special things. As long as he can avoid those big mistakes over the final 36 holes, his long wait to capture a fifth grand slam title could finally come to an end.