Although Rory McIlroy improved significantly Friday in the second round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, he still missed the cut.
McIlroy followed up his 10-over 80 in the first round with an even-par 70 on Friday, resulting in a score of 10-over after 36 holes.
He finished 14 shots behind leader Dustin Johnson, who topped the field at four-under through two rounds.
After shooting four-over with two bogeys and one double-bogey on the front nine, McIlroy played excellent golf on the back nine Friday with four birdies to go four-under.
McIlroy wasn't bad Friday considering how difficult the course was, but the hole he dug himself in the first round proved too deep to emerge from, with the cut at eight-over.
McIlroy Unable to Shake U.S. Open Woes
Since winning the U.S. Open at Congressional in 2011, the tournament has morphed into McIlroy's biggest nemesis among majors.
That was primarily on display Thursday, but he also struggled to get much going in the way of positive momentum Friday.
The Northern Irishman was already a significant longshot to make the cut, but the odds got even longer when he narrowly missed a chance to pick up a stroke on the first hole:
After his birdie putt stopped just short of the hole on No. 1, McIlroy bogeyed the par-three second to fall further off the pace.
He had another bogey on No. 7, and the dagger to his chances of making the cut proved to be a double-bogey on the par-four ninth.
Although it was too late for him to make a true run, McIlroy's birdies on Nos. 11, 13, 16 and 17 were bright spots in an otherwise miserable tournament.
Jason Sobel of The Action Network joked that McIlroy could have been in for a big weekend had he made the cut considering his improvement from the first round to the second round:
McIlroy has now missed the cut at the U.S. Open in each of the past three years. He also missed the cut in 2012 and followed that up with finishes of 41st, 23rd and ninth over the next three years.
Rory is one of the biggest hitters off the tee on the PGA Tour, but that hasn't played to his advantage at tough U.S. Open courses such as Shinnecock.
That is due to the fact that his accuracy and ability to hit greens in regulation has been pedestrian this year at best.
Failing to hit the fairway is a recipe for disaster at Shinnecock, and McIlroy often found himself playing out of deep rough, which rendered him unable to generate many birdie chances.
McIlroy is already a four-time major champion at the age of 29, but based on his current play, a second U.S. Open title doesn't appear to be in his future in the coming years.
British Open Is Rory's Best Bet for 5th Major Title
For as bad as McIlroy has been at the U.S. Open, there is light at the end of the tunnel due to the upcoming Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland.
The 2018 British Open will take place July 19-22, and it represents McIlroy's next opportunity to win his fifth major.
Playing close to home seems to comfort McIlroy, as he has finished fifth or better in each of his past three tries at the Open Championship.
After winning it in 2014, he missed the 2015 tournament due to injury. McIlroy then tied for fifth in 2016 and tied for fourth last year.
While McIlroy's inaccuracy with the driver could get him into trouble at Carnoustie, he seems to excel at links golf due to his ability to cut through the wind and successfully play low shots.
McIlroy also has a positive history at Carnoustie, as he made his Open Championship debut there in 2007 and finished as the low amateur.
He is now in the midst of a major drought, having not won a major championship since taking the British Open and PGA Championship consecutively in 2014.
Inconsistency and the inability to put together four strong rounds in a row has contributed to that.
They have been an issue in 2018 as well, although he did manage to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
McIlroy also finished eighth at the Memorial last month and fifth in the Masters, meaning he has shown flashes of turning into the dominant golfer he has proven himself to be at times during his career.
The U.S. Open wasn't an example of that, but after finishing the second round on a high note, he figures to be one of the top picks to prevail at the Open Championship.