HOYLAKE, England – So much for those Friday struggles, eh, Rory?
When Rory McIlroy tapped in for a first-round 66 on Thursday at Royal Liverpool he promptly faced questions surrounding his recent poor second-round performances. It was a little unfair to bombard the leader with such inquisitions, but the facts are the facts.
McIlroy is a combined 57 under par in opening rounds this year. In the second round, he’s 9 over. He’s posted seven nine-hole scores of 40 or worse this year – six were recorded on Fridays. Through all that, he’s still won once and finished outside the top 25 only once.
But again, the questions were relevant.
It’s safe to assume McIlroy won’t face those questions any longer after he blitzed the Open field Friday to the tune of a second-consecutive 66. McIlroy didn’t make a bogey in the first round and only made one along with seven birdies on Friday to stand at 12-under-par 132. He has opened a four-shot lead over Dustin Johnson, who shot a second-round 65.
“It was just another solid round of golf, I didn’t have that in my head at all,” McIlroy said about negative Friday thoughts. “Going out there, I just wanted to play another solid round of golf, stick to my game plan, stick to doing what I do well, which is take advantage of the par 5s, maybe take advantage of some of the other holes that are downwind. That’s all I was thinking about.”
It worked in spades.
McIlroy bogeyed the first hole and there were temporary gasps from those believing the aforementioned streak would continue. But he made birdie on Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 9 to prove that he was going to be the one to be reckoned with in search for his first claret jug and third career major.
“When his driver is on, he’s almost unstoppable,” Rickie Fowler said. “He’s not scared. He’s not scared to go and keep going. So if he’s playing the way he is right now and keeps playing through the weekend, he’s definitely going to be tough to catch.”
McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open by eight shots at Congressional. The next year he won by the same margin at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. McIlroy is up by four and says he has the same feeling now as he did on those two previous occasions.
“I don’t know if I can describe it,” McIlroy said. “It’s just like I have an inner peace on the golf course. I’m very comfortable in this position. I’m very comfortable doing what I’m doing right now. It’s hard to describe.”
And frightening for everyone else in the field.