After a turbulent Round 1, Rory McIlroy began to right the ship on Day 2 of the 2014 U.S. Open.
He began the day at one-over par—11 shots behind leader Martin Kaymer—and a little too close for comfort to the projected cut line of four-over par.
In fact, McIlroy made early headlines due to Kaymer beating his U.S. Open record, according to Ryan Lavner of the Golf Channel:
Martin Kaymer’s 130 (65-65) is lowest 36-hole score ever at #USOpen. Rory McIlroy shot 11-under 131 in 2011.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) June 13, 2014
McIlroy spoke to Stephen Schramm of The Fayetteville Observer after his round and had some lofty praise for Kaymer:
Rory McIlroy says what Martin Kaymer is doing at Pinehurst is more impressive than what he did at Congressional.— Stephen Schramm (@stephenschramm) June 13, 2014
Here's a look at the tournament's current leaderboard:
Things didn't begin swimmingly for McIlroy on Friday.
He started on the back nine at the par-five 10th hole, which has yielded some low numbers over the first two days of the tournament, though not for McIlroy, who bogeyed his first hole of the day to quickly move to two-over for the tournament.
He rebounded nicely with a birdie on the par-four 14th, getting him back to even for the day and an opening nine of even-par 35.
On the front nine, McIlroy birdied the short par-four third hole and did so again two holes later at the par-five fifth.
Showing a great level of consistency, those two birdies were surrounded by seven front-nine pars for a 33 and a round of 68 on the day.
It was a timely showing for McIlroy, who entered the tournament as the favorite, according to Odds Shark:
McIlroy's two-under performance Friday moves him into the red overall at one-under par—nine strokes behind Kaymer.
Irish golf writer Brian Keogh tweeted his thoughts after Friday's action:
Great effort for Rory McIlroy 68 for -1. Nine behind Kaymer but lurking. A 74 for Graeme McDowell is disappointing but not out of it at +2.— Brian Keogh (@IrishGolfDesk) June 13, 2014
Keeping this momentum going seems likely for McIlroy, who no longer seems to be suffering from a lingering knee injury, according to a tweet from Independent Sport:
With a fine score on Day 2, McIlroy is in great position for the weekend. He's been immersing himself in golf lately, and it's beginning to pay off.
Before his round Friday, McIlroy spoke to Matthew Castonguay of Fox Sports about his play.
"I feel like my game is in a good place and I wanted to try and prolong that as much as I can," he said. "I was down in Florida last week and the weather was good and there was no better place to spend than out on the course ... messing around."
This round bodes well for McIlroy going forward. After all, his second-round struggles in tournaments have been very apparent—his implosion at the Memorial in May pretty much sums it up, per USA Today:
With the absence of Tiger Woods looming over the tournament, one of golf's premier players must emerge to challenge Kaymer atop the leaderboard.
McIlroy is in great shape to do just that.
The U.S. Open is full of tight fairways, treacherous roughs, slick greens and challenging pin positions. Simply put: It's one of the most unpredictable tournaments each year.
A bit of a slide certainly isn't far-fetched, and if McIlroy continues to build upon his strong showing Friday, he could easily be well in the mix Sunday afternoon.
This prestigious tournament at Pinehurst No. 2 is far from over.