Blog: Is there any way McIlroy won't win?

Rory McIlroy smiles as he waits to hit a shot on the practice range prior to the third round of the 111th U.S. Open.

Rory McIlroy smiles as he waits to hit a shot on the practice range prior to the third round of the 111th U.S. Open.

9:13 p.m.: Top 5 reasons Rory McIlroy won’t win the 2011 U.S. Open Sunday:

5.) Oversleeps his 2:15 p.m. wake-up call

4.) Decides to plunk down 10 million euros at Paddy Power taking ‘other’ side of those 1/10 odds that he’s a Sunday lock

3.) Has scheduling conflict after being invited to participate with Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler et al in Boys Band II music video

2.) Falls for prank phone call from Lee Westwood saying “Hey, Rors, it’s Mike Davis. Great playing out there. The USGA Executive Committee has decided to exempt you from having to participate in the fourth round. Just show up for the trophy presentation at 7:30 p.m.”

1.) Makes the overnight swing switch to Stack & Tilt

– The Golfweek Forecaddie

6:17 p.m.: Is another Day-McIlroy pairing in the cards?

BETHESDA, Md. – Jason Day has seen Rory McIlroy at his best. He played alongside the Northern Irishman for the Masters’ first three rounds, watching McIlroy build a four-shot lead.

Day could have a front-row seat for McIlroy’s magnificence again Sunday. Day posted 65 Saturday to get to 5-under 208. When he completed his round, he was tied for second with Lee Westwood, another player seeking his first major after close calls. Westwood also shot 65 Saturday.

“I’m just looking forward to tomorrow,” Day said. “Obviously it’s going to be pretty tough to see if I can try and catch Rory. But it’s going to be exciting.”

Day has finished second in the past two majors, including a runner-up finish at the Masters. He had birdies at Nos. 6-8 and No. 10 Saturday, then finished with birdies on the 16th and 18th holes.

Westwood, runner-up in two majors last year, will also start Sunday at 5 under par. He shot 30 on the back nine with birdies on Nos. 13-15 and an eagle on the par-5 16th. Westwood is 9 under par after his past 36 holes after opening with 75.

“I’m happy to be in the tournament,” Westwood said. “I thought I was going home after my round on Thursday. I played dreadful.”

Day would play in Sunday’s final group if he’s still in second place at day’s end. The combined age of Day and McIlroy? 45.

– Sean Martin

• • •

3:52 p.m.: Simpson posts round of the morning

BETHESDA, Md. – Webb Simpson shot 66 in Saturday’s third group. His round, which included seven birdies, had him inside the top 10 when he walked off the golf course. More importantly, it gave some hope to those pursuing Rory McIlroy.

Simpson wasn’t the only player to shoot under par early Saturday. His playing partner, Bill Haas, shot 68.

“The golf course is just soft. The greens are great, they’re quick. ... I think the pins are tough today, in a way where you could short-side yourself five, six or seven times today, and have no chance to get up-and-down,” Simpson said. “I think you’ll see some pretty good scores like mine, and some pretty high scores.”

McIlroy, despite a six-shot lead, could be caught. We’ve seen players have large disparities in scoring from round to round. Robert Karlsson shot 79-67 to make the cut. Marcel Siem shot 79-66, making the cut after his first shot of the tournament bounced off a spectator and bounced into the pond fronting the 10th green. Bo Van Pelt and Kevin Chappell both shot 76-67.

“I think it’s just one of those golf courses, unlike Winged Foot, or Oakmont or Bethpage, where if you hit good tee shots and give yourself chances in the fairway, you’re going to have a few wedges in,” Simpson said. “The greens are so big and undulating that you can get it into the right tier and it will get close to the hole. Places like Oakmont and Winged Foot, you’re hitting more 4- and 5-irons into the greens all day.”

Simpson had two bogeys Saturday, including on the 13th, when his ball moved on the green after he’d addressed it. “I think we’ve been through this too many times, haven’t we,” said Simpson, who suffered a similar penalty in the final round of his playoff loss to Bubba Watson at the Zurich Classic. “It was unfortunate, but I think it really made me committed to finishing strong.”

His strong finish gives some hope to Saturday’s challengers.

– Sean Martin

3:38 p.m.: Hale Irwin says McIlroy can't get ahead of himself

BETHESDA, Md.–As he watched son Steve play in his first U.S. Open, Hale Irwin was asked about some memories from his three Open victories. Among the moments his mind revisited came at Inverness in 1979, when he went ahead by five strokes in the final round.

“I thought, ‘How do you play with a 5-shot lead?’ ” Irwin told me as we walked a few holes together in second round at Congressional, where he was watching son Steve play his first Open. “The only thing I knew was try to lead by six.”

Around the same time, Rory McIlroy was moving toward 13 under and a momentary 10-shot lead on Friday. McIlroy led by eight strokes when he finished his second round with an 11-under 131 total and ended the day up six.

When McIlroy led by eight, I ran into Irwin again and asked, “How do you play with an 8-stroke lead?”

“Try to get it to nine,” he said. He laughed and added, “You knew that already.”

McIlroy took the midway lead because of ball-striking. He drove beautifully, long and straight, and led the field in greens in regulation (32 of 36).

That formula speaks to Irwin.

“My plan always was to hit the fairway and hit the green,” he said. “That’s Job 1. You can throw out local knowledge.”

Job 2 is not getting ahead of yourself. Irwin remembers being five shots ahead with two holes left at Inverness and telling himself, “I’ve got it won.”

He finished with a double bogey and a bogey and won by two.

“I let my guard down,” he said. “You can’t do that.”

– Jeff Rude

•••

9:46 a.m.: The agony of sweating out the 36-hole cut

BETHESDA, Md. – South African Christo Greyling came to Congressional Country Club hoping to elevate his career from the ranks of the mini-tours. To do that, the local and sectional qualifier first had to make the cut.

Things started off well enough on Thursday with a round of 72, but on closer look it was the product of shaky ball-striking and incredible putting: only seven greens in regulation (T-140) but a field-leading 24 putts.

Friday’s second round was more complicated; early troubles, low-lighted by a wayward drive on the difficult uphill par-4 14th hole that led to a double-bogie and then the putts just wouldn’t drop. On the tee of the par-5 sixth hole, he stood 7-over par for the championship and three strokes off the likely cut of 146, 4-over par.

After a pulled drive he risked a long second shot, came up short but wedged to two feet and sank the putt. On the 172-yard, par-3 seventh hole, he hit 8-iron to 20 feet and snaked in a downhill putt to go to 5-over par.

At the 350-yard, par-4 eighth hole, Greyling blasted a driver to within 35 yards of the hole and pitched up to 4 feet, only to have the late Friday afternoon siren sound an impending thunderstorm. He marked his ball, walked off and had to sleep on the putt.

When he came back Saturday morning the ball marker was now 7 feet away on the opposite side. Luckily, attending USGA walking official Lew Blakey had made note of the proper location and moved the ball mark. Of course this time the newly mowed greens were much quicker than the night before. Greyling made the adjustment in speed and eked the ball into the hole to go to 4-over par, the exact cut line.

On the 556-yard, par-5 ninth hole, his last of the round, Greyling overpowered the ball into the right rough and had to wedge out to 120 yards from the hole. From there he hit another wedge that looked perfect, landing behind the hole, but it spun/rolled out to the right and now left him 20 feet away, having to putt up and over a transverse ridge.

Talk about pressure: His first major, trying to get his career off the ground. He now faced a putt that went up to the right and came back down to the left. Two putts to give himself a chance to change his life. The first putt came up 5 feet short, and from there, Greyling took his time looking at the most important shot of his life.

Actually, for a golf professional, the next shot is always the most important they’ll ever face. But this time it was for real.

The second he stroked the putt he knew it was in. So was Greyling, for the weekend. 

–Bradley S. Klein

• • •

9:40 a.m.: Points not leaving until it's over

BETHESDA, Md. – Because of lightning, D.A. Points didn’t have a chance to make the cut when play was suspended in Friday evening’s second round of the U.S. Open. At 8 over with the par-5 ninth hole still to play, Points knew his goose was literally cooked, but playing in only his second U.S. Open, he wanted to finish.

His caddie was on his way home and Points had a tap-in waiting. At 8:15 a.m., or just a little earlier as directed by USGA officials, Points returned to the ninth green, putter dressed in its putter cover and no bag in tow. He hit one practice putt on the vast and empty practice green, then dropped the putt to move to 7 over.

“Real disappointing, because it just make me realize I’m not going to play the rest of the tournament,” Points said about having to come back to finish his round.  “I hate WD’ing, I hate DQ’ing and all the stuff that goes along with that.”

Points felt his group – which included Nick O’Hern and Brandt Jobe – could have finished last night, but traditional U.S. Open slow play got them in the end.

“The frustrating thing was last night it played so slow and we waited a bunch and felt we could have got it in if we had been able to play a little faster,” Points said.

–Alex Miceli

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