The challenge facing Rory McIlroy in today’s US Open second round is quite straightforward: go low or go home.
The Northern Irishman finds himself in a desperate battle to make the cut after opening the year’s second major with a six-over 78. That’s despite having been two-under through two.
The world No.2, making his first start since the Players Championship last month having been sidelined with a rib injury, found only five of 14 fairways. That’s despite having criticised the USGA earlier in the week for trimming back the fescue rough, saying: “We have 60 yards [of width in the fairways]… You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here. If we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
How he must now wish they’d cut it back even more than they did.
Even so, the 2011 US Open champion remains optimistic that he turn his fortunes around. Perhaps that’s to do with the unusually low scores posted in the opening round.
Traditionally a tough, attritional affair, this year’s US Open began with a record number of sub-par scores (44), eclipsing the previous record of 39 set at Medinah in 1990.
“I feel like I'm capable,” said McIlroy when asked how he rates his prospects of shooting a low number in round two. “If I get the ball on the fairway, I can give myself some chances and some looks at birdies.
“That just wasn't the case today. I didn't play the par-5s particularly well either. So, there are a lot of things that I could have done better. I just have to try to go out tomorrow and rectify those.”
McIlroy blamed his disappointing start on ‘a little bit of rust’, adding that his timing ‘was a little off’, but insisted that his recent injury hadn’t hindered him.
“I feel great,” he added. “That's all totally fine. I was hacking around in the rough out there and didn't feel it one bit. So, no, that's totally fine.”
The four-time major champion was by no means the only big name to struggle in the first round. As many amateurs, in fact, broke par as players in the top ten of the world rankings did.
Defending champion and world No.1 Dustin Johnson, pictured above carded a 75 to sit three-over. Jason Day, playing alongside McIlroy, had a seven-over 79. The 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, meanwhile, was one of only four players not to break 80. The Englishman had a nine-over 81.