The build up to the 111th US Open Championship at the Congressional was surrounded by pundits declaring golf as wide open as it has ever been.
Although it could be anyone’s tournament, Rory McIlroy has proved over the past couple days that he is a cut above the rest.
The Northern Irishman has taken a six-shot lead into the weekend after playing some of the best golf ever demonstrated in a major championship.
He became the quickest player in US Open history to hit the 13-under(-par) mark before a disappointing double bogey on the 18th hole, which turned out to be the only dampener on a fantastic round of golf.
After his dreadful showing on the back nine at Augusta National in April, he threw the Masters away. Many people were saying this was the start of his mental vulnerability coming to light again.
The cynics in the golfing world will be looking out for mistakes from the youngster as they expect him to crack under the pressure once again.
McIlroy will have learned from this experience, and will be more determined than ever to put the ghosts of Augusta to rest.
Preparation going into the last two rounds is key. Young Rory needs to make sure he is fully focused on the task and not let the complacency set in at such a crucial moment.
No one wants to see a repeat of the horrible pictures in Augusta, as he sat with his head in his hands after throwing away a strong lead.
Rory McIlroy described his first two rounds as "pretty near the best I can play," after an impressive 65 in the first round, followed by a consistent 66 in the second.
McIlroy has proved he is up there with the big hitters, his colossal drives hitting 20 fairways out of 28 from the tee. His short game has also been impressive, as he makes the course look easy.
The way to understand just how well the 22-year-old is playing is when you look at the golfers around him, and how such talents have failed to perform on a difficult course.
There have been some good displays—especially from Y.E. Yang, who sits in second but is still lagging a distance behind the young leader.
There have been moments of brilliance from Rory McIlroy that are reminiscent of a young Tiger Woods, with the determination and ease to glide through the course.
Pundits spoke of the disappointment that Tiger would not be competing at the US Open this year, and that it just won’t be the same without him. Well, McIlroy has paved the way for himself to become the next dominant force in golf for many years to come.
There still is, of course, half way to go. He needs to prove he has the concentration and composure to tackle this enormous task ahead of him.
It is so difficult to enter the last two rounds as leader, especially with a six-shot lead. Everything about his game will be analysed to death.
Following the disappointment at the Masters, McIlroy has shown by starting off so strong this week that he has learnt from his experiences, and now has the mental capacity to challenge for major honours.
The supposed World No. 1 Luke Donald started off as favorite this week, after coming into the tournament in brilliant form. However, a fellow Brit has stolen the limelight, and could soon be challenging for that coveted No. 1 spot.
What an achievement it would be for a country the size of Northern Ireland to produce successive US Open champions. If he is to top that leaderboard come Sunday, it would be an extraordinary feat for golf in the country.
Rory McIlroy has played some of the most beautiful golf in recent memory and is set to be one of the greatest the sport has ever seen.
The young lad has one hand on the US Open trophy. He needs to make sure he continues playing out of his skin and prove he has the mentality to be the greatest player in the world right now.