BETHESDA, Md. – A college softball game would’ve been called by now, to save the losing side further embarrassment. There’s no mercy rule in golf, though.
U.S. Open participants still have two rounds remaining at Congressional Country Club. Rory McIlroy may have some of the world’s best players questioning their ability after he shot 65-66, but they’ll gladly return to Congressional come Saturday.
Golf is fickle, and golf is cruel, and for those reasons the field still has a chance here. Thirty-six holes is a long time in a major championship.
“He’s striking it flawlessly and putted great on the greens,” Mickelson said. “His first two rounds were very impressive.”
There should be an emphasis placed on “first two rounds.” Capitalize those words. Underline and bold them for good measure.
Would a McIlroy loss be improbable? Yes. Would it be unfortunate? Yes, for the friends, family and fans of the likable, young Northern Irishman.
But it wouldn’t be impossible.
“It’s been two very, very good days of golf,” McIlroy said. “I put myself in a great position going into the weekend. But I know probably more than anyone else what can happen. So I’ve got to stay really focused and try and finish this thing off.”
A runaway by McIlroy would serve as a coronation of golf’s new star. No one has displayed so much talent at such a young age since Tiger Woods. Golf is looking for someone to fill his void, and McIlroy is a great candidate.
He’s young, charismatic and athletic. Those curly, black locks cover a good head on those 22-year-old shoulders. How many players would travel to a third-world country before one of golf’s four majors?
But if you analyze the remainder of this Open with your head, and not your heart, you know that it’s not over.
“I think at this point it’s a little bit irrelevant,” Y.E. Yang said of McIlroy’s lead, which he trails by six shots
Remember Pebble Beach? Whistling Straits? And, as McIlroy knows all too well, Augusta National?
Conventional wisdom said Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney and McIlroy were in for a cakewalk come Sunday. They were served liver and onions, instead.
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Yes, McIlroy’s lead is larger, but he must hold it longer. We watched leading men at recent majors hemorrhage on Sunday. The red numbers flowed quickly from their line on the scoreboard, replaced by crooked numbers painted black.
A slow bleed here would be enough to put McIlroy’s major chances in the dirt. Two rounds of 72 or 73 – easy to do at a U.S. Open, even on this tame Congressional setup – could deny McIlroy from repeating the success of his countryman, Graeme McDowell.
McIlroy knows better than anyone that low scores can be had here. It’s not hard to find oneself in the black, though. The world’s top three were a combined 10 over par on Thursday.
The bad shots return eventually, no matter how well someone is playing. Sometimes a player can keep them away for a week. Think Tiger Woods at the 2000 U.S. Open, or even Louis Oosthuizen at last year’s Open Championship. Such a special week is a rarity, though.
McIlroy could be in the midst of such a week. It’s too early to tell, though.