US Open: Rory McIlroy fluffs last as slump continues in San Francisco
Rory McIlroy was left hoping that a careless three-putt bogey was not the difference between making the halfway cut and packing his bags at the US Open in San Francisco.
The defending champion’s shoulders sank when he missed a 15-foot birdie chance on the final green of his second round – and then he missed the tiddler coming back. The bogey 4 meant a three over par 73 to add to his opening 77 and at ten over he was resigned to making his fourth early exit from his last five tournaments.
“If the cut is nine (over) I won’t be feeling too good tonight,” said the 23-year-old Northern Irishman after clearing his locker and preparing to fly home.
World No 1 Luke Donald was on his way out too, a 72 leaving him 11 over and still waiting for his first major title. There was disappointment of a different sort for McIlroy’s compatriot and predecessor as champion Graeme McDowell. Birdies at the 15th and 16th – his seventh and eighth holes of the day – lifted McDowell into second place on his own at two under par. However, McDowell then bogeyed three of his last four holes and with a 72 slipped back to one over and joint ninth.
He was still right in contention, however, as most of those ahead of him were only just teeing off. They included little-known American Michael Thompson, three clear overnight following a sparkling 66, and he bogeyed his third hole – the 430-yard 11th – to drop back to three under. Lee Westwood was playing with McIlroy and Donald and he shot 72 to be five over, the same as Ian Poulter (75), while Justin Rose was one better after he too shot 75.
While most of the world’s top golfers were left struggling just to survive on the treacherous course, McDowell was in his element, plotting his way around the par-70 layout. “I played some really nice golf the last two days,” he said. “I made enough birdies to kind of offset some mistakes which I think is key. If you can make some birdies on this golf course, it really gives you a little bit of a cushion.”
McDowell had four birdies yesterday and got to two under before losing some ground late in the round with three bogeys in his last four holes.
“That’s what this golf course can do to you in a heart beat,” he said. “To be honest with you, if you had offered me one-over par starting on the first tee yesterday, having seen what I saw yesterday morning, I would have probably snapped your arm off for it.”
McDowell won the 2010 U.S. Open when he shot even par in similarly tough conditions but said there is no comparing Pebble Beach and Olympic Club, which are only about two hours apart. “I guess that the similarity is that level par is going to be close to winning and the breeze coming in off the Pacific Ocean has the same kind of chill and the same heaviness to it,” he said.
Most of those ahead of him were still out on the course and finding life just as hard. They included little-known American Michael Thompson, three clear overnight following a sparkling 66, and after a double bogey and two bogeys in his first six holes he was back down to one under.
That was still good enough for a share of the lead with 2003 winner Jim Furyk, who, playing with McDowell, shot a fine 69, and 17-year-old American amateur Beau Hossler, like Thompson a qualifier.
Tiger Woods was alongside them after a five-foot birdie at the short third, but he could not get up and down from sand at the fifth and had a terrible break at the next. The 14-major champion liked the look of his approach, but it finished in thick rough just above a bunker and it was no wonder he dropped another shot from there.
With an exit looking likely, McIlroy added: “I felt I hit it okay, but this course is so punishing if you get out of position.
“I felt I had really turned a corner last week [he was seventh in Memphis and had a chance to win before double-bogeying the last] and if this was a normal tournament I think I would be there or thereabouts. Playing your best it’s still a really good test. I’m trying to not let it frustrate me and trying to see positives. I do because I’m hitting good shots and giving myself chances. I’ll go home now and start playing some links golf.”
Scotland’s Martin Laird was also the wrong side of the projected cut despite improving on his opening 77 with a 72. Compatriot Marc Warren was yet to begin his second round after a 73 on day one.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 10 C to 20 C
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