Rory McIlroy sees grounds for optimism despite early US Open exit

Rory McIlroy bowed out of the US Open after his second-round 71 but remained upbeat that the run of competitive golf now ahead of him will resurrect his form and fortunes

If Rory McIlroy was a racehorse, there would have been no logic at all in ranking him among the favourites for an event of equivalent implication to the US Open. As golfs version of a performer who is lightly raced, McIlroy arrived at Erin Hills having played merely 22 competitive rounds in 2017.

That figure increased by merely two, McIlroys second-round 71 in the second major of 2017 proving insufficient to improve the damage caused by an opening round of 78. McIlroy at least departed in reasonable spirits, his run of four birdies in six closing pits providing a glance back towards what the four-time major champ is capable of.

In practice I was really good, McIlroy told. You play 54 pits around here before the tournament; I felt really comfortable. I drove the ball well, my irons were good. Everything was in good shape. But “youve never” truly know until you put a card in your hand and youre under the firearm a little bit.

Rickie Fowler encountered pressure of his own, the first-round leader having arrived at the 11 th on Friday without having fallen a shot in the tournament. Fowler promptly bogeyed three pits in a row. At six under, “hes one” from the halfway lead as held by four players. Two of that group, Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood, are English; Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman complete the quartet. Caseys prominence is remarkable given the eight he posted at the 14 th in round two.

The investigative skills of Quincy are hardly necessary when determining why McIlroy missed a second US Open cut in succession. This tournament has not been altogether kind to McIlroy aside from the 2011 occasion where reference is won it, let alone when the buildup was disturbed by fitness troubles. The rib problem that upset his opening to the year offer perfect explanation for the appearance of rust at Erin Hills. The equipment switching that was triggered by Nikes withdrawal from the market also inevitably adds an element of upheaval that McIlroy would ideally have done without. These matters are all intrinsically connected; merely by featuring at the business objective of events can McIlroy perfectly attune himself to what new tools he has at his disposal, just as history proves he benefits from the confidence acquired from the very same scenarios. McIlroy enjoys the momentum he has thus far been denied for reasons beyond his control.

Ive been very light on competitive rounds, McIlroy said. I suppose at this point in time I just need to play. And I feel, even though its very disappointing to not is right there on the weekend, these last two rounds will serve me well going into the summer. Yesterday, coming off an injury, I was a little anxious going out there. I got off to a good start but it sort of caught up with me as the round went on. I think the more rounds I can play, Im hopefully going to get rid of all that stuff and hopefully strip it down to what you comprehend the last six holes.

Here is another reason for McIlroy cheer; no other player among the worlds leading group has recently embarked on a profitable running. The 28 -year-old is barely lagging behind in a wider context.

The next part of the season is key for him. Next weeks Traveller Championship begins a stretch of six events in eight weeks, including two major championships and one, the US PGA Championship, at the Quail Hollow venue he has previous for pulling apart. Should success arrive within this period, the frustrations of the first part of 2017 will be readily forgotten. Even when the major season concludes, McIlroy will not lack focus in respect of defending the FedEx Cup.

Im just excited to get a operate of golf now, he added. Im optimistic with where my game is. Hopefully Ive got a lot of the bad stuff out of my system yesterday and some parts today. And again, its merely a matter of get competitive rounds under my belt. Im playing next week in Connecticut. Ive got a nice run leading up to the Open Championship. Ive got a busy summertime, so Im excited to play a lot of golf. I feel like thats going to help me to get back into contention and try to win some of these things. Im hungry but Im not going to force it. Im going to let it happen. Im going to play. The worst thing I can do is go and force-out it because thats not my game.

The key McIlroy problem on Friday was on the greens, to move to inevitable commentary considering his switch to a new putter in recent days. I didnt think it was the putter.It was the guy on the end of it, he said. Jason Day also failed to survive for the closing 36 holes. Yet there was contrasting sentiment from the Australian. Day was bemused by an aggregate of 10 over par. I felt the most calm I have in a major in a long time this week, told Day after his 75. Regrettably this didnt pan off. The golf course is beautiful. I just didnt execute.

Late on Friday, the world No1 Dustin Johnson completed a high-profile exodus from Wisconsin. Johnson added a 73 to his Thursday 75, thereby missing the cut by three. Only three months ago, an imperious Johnson appeared unbeatable. He had now been missed the Masters through a freak accident and, via different circumstances , now been forced to watch another major weekend on television. I couldnt have shot any higher, Johnson said. I couldnt perhaps shoot any higher than I did. I simply fought on the greens. Its simple.

As McIlroy, Johnson and Day exited, Casey maintained his dream of a first major win alive. Its not every day you are able to enjoy a round with an eight on the card but Im a happy man, Casey said. Casey has recorded three consecutive top-six finishes in the Masters but has only one top-1 0 in the US Open in 13 tries, which went a decade ago at Oakmont.

It feelings good, the 39 -year-old told. It shows what can happen if you get out of posture on this course. Even just trying to take my medicine is very difficult. Its a good eight in the end.

Australias Adam Scott also failed to progress to the weekend.

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