U.S. Open: Rory McIlroy's strong finish on Friday 'got myself right back in the tournament'

By Sports Desk June 17, 2022

Rory McIlroy is content with his performance across the first two rounds at The Country Club, coming into Friday one stroke off the lead, and finishing the same way after a one-under 69.

McIlroy trails only Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen, who lead at five under, but he needed to close in style to shoot back up the leaderboard after a shaky start.

His week threatened to fall apart on the third hole, but he was able to save double-bogey with a 30-foot putt to take some sort of momentum. He birdied the fifth and eighth, but bogeyed the sixth and 10th, leaving him at one under overall with eight holes to play.

But his final eight holes were magnificent, with birdies on 12, 14 and 17 to salvage an under-par round and maintain his one stroke deficit from the leaders.

Speaking to the media after his round, McIlroy said being in the hunt after Friday is all you can ask for at a major.

"After 36 holes in a major championship, that's all you want to do is put yourself right in the mix going into the weekend," he said. 

"For a little part of the day there, it seemed like I was going to be a few more behind, but I dug deep and played the last eight holes really, really well.

"That was the goal. After I bogeyed 10, I just wanted to try to shoot under par. 

"I had some chances coming up. Just played a really clean eight holes, which was pleasing. Hit fairways, hit greens, gave myself chances. Got myself right back in the tournament."

Despite being a four-time major champion, it has been nearly eight years since McIlroy's last major crown, and he said he does not think he can rely on those memories for an advantage.

"I think I have to go out with the mindset this week that I'm going to try to win my first again," he said. "I'm playing as good a golf as I've played in a long time. 

"I have a lot of experience. Yes, I've won major championships and other big events, but… just because I've done that, it doesn't mean that I'll hit better golf shots or I'll hit better putts.

"I'm in a good place. I'm really happy with where my game is at, and I think that's the most important thing."

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    McIlroy has been a steadfast critic of the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed circuit, which counts the likes of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau among its ranks. 

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    Eleven LIV players initially supported an antitrust lawsuit filed against the PGA Tour, accusing it of operating as a monopoly and alleging the suspension of players joining the new circuit was improper.

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    "Right now with two lawsuits going on, and how heightened the rhetoric has been, I think we just need to let it cool off a little bit," McIlory added.

    "I don't know what's going to happen with this lawsuit. No one's going to want to talk to anyone when it's hanging over the game, so I don't know what happens there.

    "I've probably said a few things that are maybe too inflammatory at times, but it just comes from the heart and how much I hate what this is doing to the game.

    "It has been an ugly year but there's a solution to everything. If we can send rockets to the moon and bring them back again and have them land on their own I'm sure we can figure out how to make professional golf cohesive again."

    However, as LIV Golf continues to lobby the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) for the ability to grant rankings points, McIlroy said the circuit's players will only have themselves to blame if they miss out on qualifying for majors.

    "The only ones that are prohibiting them from getting world rankings points are themselves," McIlroy said.

    "It's not as if [the OWGR] created this criteria out of thin air a few months ago to try to prevent LIV from getting points.

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    "There's a bunch of stuff where they don't meet the criteria yet, but if they were to change and meet all those points then there's obviously no reason not to give them world ranking points.

    "I'm certainly not for banning them from majors, but with the way the world rankings are now, if someone that hasn't won the Masters before can't garner enough world ranking points to be eligible, then I think that's entirely on them.

    "They knew the risks going in, and actions have consequences. That was a risk that they were paid for, ultimately. 

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    "The merits of the case – the PGA Tour's anticompetitive conduct – still stand and will be fully tested in court. And we look forward to that.

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    The United States have won nine consecutive editions of the Presidents Cup since a tie in 2003, with the International team's only triumph coming in 1998.

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