Rory McIlroy In Touching Distance At US Open After 36 Holes

McIlroy bounced back from a slow front nine to come home in 30 at LACC and put himself well in contention ahead of the weekend

Rory McIlroy looks on after playing an iron shot at the 2023 US Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If Rory McIlroy wins his second US Open title and fifth Major on Sunday evening, he may well look back on early Friday afternoon as the catalyst that kept him in the tournament and climbing up the leaderboard.

After a front nine of two-over, it so could have easily gone the other way just like many times before. But no, this week's Rory McIlroy looks like he's ready to scrap it out for the title this weekend.

The Northern Irishman posted a five-under-par 65 on Thursday but was pegged back to three-under after his opening eight holes, which included three dropped shots and a solitary birdie. 

From starting the day three back of the lead, he was quickly six behind the nine-under-par score of Wyndham Clark but a rallying back nine on holes 1-9 have kept him well in the fight for a second US Open trophy.

McIlroy birdied the par 5 1st, his 10th hole, for the second day in a row and then rolled in a lovely left-to-righer down the hill at the third to get back to where he started.

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A dropped shot came at the par 3 4th, where he came up short in the barranca off the tee, but he picked the shot straight back up at the 493 yard par 4 5th where he rolled in a 25-footer.

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He would birdie the drivable 6th after an iron layup and wedge to within kick-in distance before a two-putt birdie at the double-dogleg par 5 8th where he crushed his tee shot right to the end of the fairway and easily found the green with a towering, drawn iron shot.

It was vintage Rory McIlroy, and we're getting to see more and more of him over the first two days.

That got him to seven-under-par and there was still time for some magic.

He faced the 168 yard par 3 9th to finish out his day and he so nearly made the fourth hole-in-one of the 2023 US Open and second of the day after Matt Fitzpatrick's ace on the 15th. Rory's flushed approach rolled agonisingly past the hole to nestle just within 3ft for the easiest, and nicest, of finishes.

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He duly tapped in for a 2 and his second-consecutive 30 on the front nine holes at LAAC. He's 10-under par on the front nine this week and two-over on the back. 

If he can play holes 10-18 well over the next two days then he may well be picking up a Major championship trophy for the first time since August 2014. He's going to have a late tee time on Saturday and he looks like a man who'll be tough to beat this weekend.

McIlroy is cutting a different figure on the course this week after cancelling his pre-tournament press conference and then also skipping media on Thursday evening. All of his talk is coming with his golf clubs, and he's doing a very good job of it so far.

He spoke to media for the first time this week following his 67 on Friday, where he admitted that scoring is lower than he expected but he thinks the course will "bite back" this weekend.

"I'm surprised. I didn't see the scores being as low as they are," he said on Friday afternoon.

"I think the overcast conditions yesterday combined with that little bit of rain in the morning, I think the course just never got firm at all.

"The conditions now, it's a little brighter, sunnier, a little bit of breeze. It's got the potential to get a little firmer and faster over the next couple days, which will make the scores go up a little bit. We'll see what it's like at the end of the week.

"It's still early in the week. And yes, the course has played maybe a little easier than everyone thought it would, but wouldn't be surprised on Saturday/Sunday to see it bite back, which going back to your question I feel is what a US Open is all about.

"It should be tough. It should be just as much of a mental grind out there as a physical one."

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x