ARDMORE, Pa. – This wasn’t 2011, but then Merion is not Congressional.
Two years ago Rory McIlroy dismantled Congressional on his way to a record U.S. Open victory carding rounds of 65-66-68-69, so it may have seemed strange that the Ulsterman sounded so upbeat following an even-par 70 on Day 2 at Merion, yet as he explained there is nothing easy about the East Course.
“They put the pins in places that even when you hit it close, you had a tough putt for your birdie or your par or whatever. And the wind is obviously up,” said McIlroy, who was tied for 28th at 3 over par when he completed his second round. “That's why I think you're seeing the scores rise a little bit today. Hopefully rise a little bit more in the afternoon.”
Although the world No. 2 has hit just over half his greens in regulation (21 of 36) he is only five strokes off the pace on what is turning into a much more demanding test than the pundits predicted.
After opening his round with back-to-back birdies (Nos. 11 and 12), he played his next seven holes in 2 over and answered every birdie on his closing nine with a bogey. Despite the slow start, McIlroy remains in the hunt for his third major championship and the kick start his season has been missing.
“I'm very happy. Right in there for the weekend. I don't think I'll be too far away by the end of the day,” McIlroy said. “I mean, I am in a nice position going into the last two days.”