Friday, June 17, 2011

McIlroy Making A Tough Open Look Easy

  Was the double bogey Rory McIlroy made on Congressional's 18th hole Friday a signal that this U.S. Open isn't as close to being over as it appears or was it merely a mistake by young McIlroy that won't have any serious long-term consequences?

   I lean toward the latter, thinking if anything the sudden double may have jarred McIlroy just enough to keep him on edge over the coming weekend. Sure, the U.S. Open keeps everyone on edge, even the guy hawking Cokes in the concession stand but McIlroy was making it look so good, so effortless that it was as if he were playing a different game.

   He got away with a chunky tee shot at the watery par-3 10th that barely cleared the water but, otherwise, McIlroy was flawless until the 18th hole. It conjured up memories of Tiger Woods in 2000 in the sustained brilliance.

   McIlroy is doing the hard stuff and making it look easy. He was often out-driving playing partners Dustin Johnson and spray-hitting Phil Mickelson, usually striping it down the middle while his companions were playing the edges.

    What impressed me was the par McIlroy made at the 494-yard uphill par-4 11th. It's a monster of a hole with a slender creek along the right side and a lily pad-flecked pond beside the green. McIlroy put his second shot in the left greenside bunker, leaving himself a wicked sand shot across a narrow green to hole tucked just a few feet from the pond.

    McIlroy played his bunker shot to within eight feet of the hole and, like Tiger used to do, he center-cut the par putt. It was the kind of par that wins U.S. Opens.

    While waiting for McIlroy to finish Friday, his agent Chubby Chandler was watching from behind the 18th green. When someone suggested two rounds of par or better would win for McIlroy this weekend, Chandler quickly hushed the talk, saying it should "be put in the fridge for a while longer."

   Moments later, McIlroy made a mess of the finishing hole.

   It was a lousy way to finish what has been a remarkable start.