U.S. Open 2011: Will Rory McIlroy Break Every Tournament Record?

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IJune 18, 2011

BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 18:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland shakes hands with his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald after the third round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 18, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

What is happening before our eyes at Congressional Country Club is nuts.

Nobody has ever played golf at the US Open like Rory McIlroy. Not Tiger Woods. Not Jack Nicklaus. Not Arnold Palmer. No one, ever. Not in 111 years.

McIlroy had already tied or broken several US Open scoring records after 36 holes. Now it is a matter of seeing how low he can go, how many more records he breaks and whether he will be able to get through the final round without a collapse.

"It definitely wasn't as easy as it was the first couple of days," McIlroy said after the third round. "I knew that I was going to feel a little bit of pressure and a little bit of nerves, and it took me a few holes to get into the round."

"Rory is out there making it look incredibly easy," said defending US Open champ Graeme McDowell after his round. "He hasn't put a foot wrong. So I might go back to the house here and put the feet up and watch how it's done."

On Friday, McIlroy tied the Gil Morgan and Tiger Woods number -12,which was the best ever at any time in a US Open, but he did not finish there. He ended 36 holes at -11.

Today, however, McIlroy reached into the stratosphere hitting -13 two more times and then climbing one better, to -14, with a birdie putt on the par four, 15th hole. He had one par five to play, but did not birdie it, and that is where he finished for the third round.

No matter what happens, he has a new US Open record, never mind how many holes.

With a 65-66-68 total of 199 for three rounds, McIlroy also bests the total strokes taken in the first 54 holes held by Jim Furyk in the 2003 US Open at Olympia Fields.

One record McIlroy did not break is for the 54-hole lead, 10 shots, which still belongs to Tiger Woods from the 2000 US Open.

Can McIlroy lose an eight shot lead on Sunday?

Those behind hope so. They are Lee Westwood and Jason Day who shot shot 65s, and to finish at minus-five, nine shots back of McIlroy, and Y.E. Yang who posted a 69 to go to minus-six.

"Obviously if Rory comes back a little bit that gives us a little chance of shooting a low score tomorrow and catching him," Day said. "I just knew that it was out there when I saw Webb (Simpson) come through nine. I didn't expect to go out and shoot six‑under, no way in the world."

"My mission was to get myself somewhere into the tournament," Westwood said. "I said maybe if I can get to 10‑under at the weekend. But you don't know how Rory is going to do. You don't know how he's going to deal with the big lead. He had a big lead in a Major and didn't deal with it well before. There's pressure on him with regards to that. So we'll see. All I can do is control my game and try and shoot as low a score as possible for me."

"Rory is out there making it look incredibly easy, He hasn't put a foot wrong," said defending champion Graeme McDowell. "It's just phenomenal. You run out of superlatives to describe what he's doing this week. He's decimating a field."

This is not the Famer's Insurance Open or The Memorial, where -14 would be expected after two or three rounds. This is the we-dare-you-to-break-par US Open where getting into red numbers is an achievement and where only three men have achieved double digits in the 111-year history of the event.

As far as his chances go, he seems cautiously optimistic, to borrow a phrase.

"These experiences for me are fantastic, and to play—to lead six out of seven rounds of majors this year is great, and again, brings its own pressure," McIlroy said after the third round.  "I'm definitely thinking a lot better out on the golf course and making better decisions, and I think that's one of the reasons why my play has been good in the majors so far this year."

If McIlroy completes the mission, wins and finishes better than -12, it is indeed history being made. Is it this the next sea change in golf? That, we will have to wait to see.

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.