DUBLIN, Ohio – Before he won the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, Rory McIlroy finished fifth at the Memorial Tournament. He had yet to win that season, but did have four top-10s in seven starts leading into that week in Bethesda, Md.
McIlroy has three missed cuts and just one top-10 in six U.S. Open starts since as he enters this year’s championship at Shinnecock Hills. This week’s start at Muirfield Village, where McIlroy is 8 under through 54 holes after an 8-under 64 Saturday, is McIlroy’s last start before the U.S. Open and his last chance to build confidence during a season where he’s showcased both good and bad.
He won in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and posted his second runner-up finish of the year last week at the BMW PGA. But he also has missed three cuts, including the Players Championship last month.
“The results this year have probably been better than the results going into Congressional in 2011, but I felt much better about my game going into Congressional,” McIlroy said. “I just felt really comfortable. You just get a feeling. I’ve had a feeling a couple of times where I think this is going to be a good week and that was one of those weeks.
“But I feel like I need to see another round of golf tomorrow like I played today, plus some good practice next week leading up to the U.S. Open to feel like that again.”
McIlroy’s 64 on Saturday at Jack’s Place is the round of the week so far, and it moved him to within three shots of the lead about an hour and a half before the final tee time at 1:50 p.m. Eastern. Pretty good for a player who made the cut on the number Friday.
“My attitude was I’m just happy to be here, I’m happy to get another couple of days of playing, and I really just treated it like practice,” McIlroy said. “Just threw the tournament out the window, go and try and work on what you’ve been working on on the range, and go from there.”
McIlroy eagled the par-5 fifth hole from the bunker and made three birdies on the front nine, including a two-putt birdie at the par-5 seventh. On the back side, he birdied Nos. 11-13, before making five straight pars to close his round.
After his round, McIlroy anticipated that he’d be five or six shots back entering Sunday. Could he pull it off?
“It’s been done before,” McIlroy said.
What about in two weeks?
“It’s hard to say, because over the last few weeks I’ve played rounds of golf like this, but I’ve also played rounds of golf where it’s been pretty average,” said McIlroy, who has now shot 64, 66, 65 in his last three PGA Tour Sundays, but also posted a final-round 74 at the Masters followed by two poor second rounds at Wells Fargo (76) and the Players (74).
“So the good’s very good and the bad is, I need to get that a little bit better. So if I could produce four days of golf at Shinnecock like I did today, then, yeah, I’m ready. But I’ve got a little bit of work to do just to get a bit more consistency in there.”