History in the making for McIlroy as he follows in footsteps of Tiger on long march towards glory

Young Northern Irishman looks set to redeem his Masters blow-up with a massive lead after another remarkable display while Westwood ensures he stays in the reckoning
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The Independent Online

Surely the "if" has disappeared – and so, too, has the "when". If Rory McIlroy is not crowned the US Open champion here in America's capital tonight, there has either been an epic thunderstorm or an upset of devastating proportions. The young Ulsterman is eight shots clear and trampling all over the record books.

Thus far he has taken 199 strokes, making him the first player in 111 US Opens to break the 200 three-round barrier. That is just one piece of history McIlroy has chiselled here. To go with the many new marks he set on Friday, he also became the first player ever to reach 14-under at a US Open. The legend just grows and grows.

And so, at the age of 22, he stands on the brink of becoming the youngest US Open winner in 88 years and the youngest winner of any major since Tiger Woods stunned the world at the 1997 Masters. To think, just two months ago, he stood there at Augusta a crumpled figure after that final-round 80. What sweet, sweet redemption this would be.

On the evidence of yesterday's supremely controlled 68, it should be a formality, a slow march to glory to rival the Woods stroll at Pebble Beach 11 years ago. Is it possible that he could beat Woods' major record of a 15-shot victory? Perhaps not, although with McIlroy in this mood anything is possible. As Padraig Harrington, the Dubliner who began Ireland's outrageous run in the majors four years ago, put it: "If you are going to talk about someone challenging Jack Nicklaus's record [of 18 majors], there's your man."

Yes, it was easy to be swept into hyperbole as McIlroy carried on his surge into the sunset. He has belittled this field, crushed it, pulverised it, smashed it into pieces. There were inspired performances yesterday from Lee Westwood, the world No 2, and the young Australian Jason Day, who both shot 65s to hurtle themselves to five-under, while Y E Yang recovered from an early setback to stay in second at six-under. But it wasn't nearly enough to ruffle the pacesetter, to clip his heels even. Rory was skipping along in a fantasy land of his very own.

Perhaps the biggest challenge he faced yesterday was merely to kill time. Thanks to the USGA's perverse logic the leaders did not set out until 3.50pm local time, meaning McIlroy was forced to wait 27 hours to resume his charge. He dined with a group including Westwood on Friday evening, and yesterday morning kept his TV turned off from the golf by watching The Dark Knight. There was no reaching for the Bat Phone as he parred the first and second in comfortable style.

On the third he showed the maturity gleaned from Augusta by chipping out sideways after a drive into the rough. McIlroy could have gone for it, tried to play it under the trees, but backed his wedge play. With very good reason. He stiffed his approach and moved on to the fourth, where he produced an accomplished sand save. Time for a birdie.

The 12-footer on the fifth was never missing and the chant of "Let's go, Rory, let's go" reverberated around Maryland, just as it did all day. His lead was up to seven and when he birdied the par-five ninth, finding the green in two, he was eight clear.

Westwood was finishing his round and the pair passed each other with a smirk from the elder and a blank expression from the youngster as he crossed to the 10th tee. Westwood's card was lit up by four holes from the 13th, in which he picked up five shots in a brilliant inward half of 30. Three birdies were capped by an eagle on the 16th when a 25-footer dropped in. He had finally launched his bid. Yet how much will he rue his opening 75?

A bogey on the 10th, just McIlroy's second of the Championship, was immediately negated by a 20-footer for a birdie on the difficult 11th. Just like Tiger used to do. At this stage there was no need to look back to Greg Norman's capitulation from a six-shot advantage at the 1996 Masters – the largest 54-hole lead ever lost in a major – or, indeed, at three of the last four majors which have seen two other 54-hole leaders, as well as McIlroy, fail to break 80 in the final round. At this tournament a year ago Dustin Johnson shot an 82 when three shots ahead, and at the USPGA three months later Nick Watney shot an 81 when also three clear.

But McIlroy's been there, done that and the overwhelming perception here was that Northern Ireland, little Northern Ireland, would soon be toasting their second US Open title in as many years. Remarkable.

The further McIlroy went, the more resilient he became. A beautiful approach to six feet on the 14th took him to the new magic mark of 14-under. But it was the tricky six-footer he holed for par on the 17th which best typified his psyche. It was never missing; filled with conviction. Inevitably, someone evoked the old Bobby Jones statement about Nicklaus at the 1965 Masters. "He's playing a game with which I'm not familiar." But McIlroy's game is familiar. Are you watching, Mr Woods?

Leaderboard: Second Round


Rory McIlroy (N Ire) 65 66 68


Y E Yang (S Kor) 68 69 70


Lee Westwood (Eng) 75 68 65

Jason Day (Aus) 71 72 65

Robert Garrigus (US) 70 70 68


Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 74 69 66

Matt Kuchar (US) 72 68 69

Sergio Garcia (Sp) 69 71 69


Kim Kyung-Tae (S Kor) 69 72 69


Bo Van Pelt (US) 76 67 68

Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 72 69

Davis Love III (US) 70 71 70

Brandt Jobe (US) 71 70 70

Heath Slocum (US) 71 70 70


Webb Simpson (US) 75 71 66

Kevin Chappell (US) 76 67 69

Peter Hanson (Swe) 72 71 69

Patrick Cantlay (US)* 75 67 70

Brandt Snedeker (US) 70 70 72

Zach Johnson (US) 71 69 72


Harrison Frazar (US) 72 73 68

Graeme McDowell (N Ire) 70 74 69

Steve Stricker (US) 75 69 69

Russell Henley (US)* 73 69 71

Louis Oosthuizen (SA) 69 73 71

Alvaro Quiros (Sp) 70 71 72


Bill Haas (US) 73 73 68

Kim Do-Hoon (S Kor) 73 71 70

Marc Leishman (Aus) 73 69 72

Charl Schwartzel (SA) 68 74 72

John Senden (Aus) 70 72 72

Ryan Palmer (US) 69 72 73


Rory Sabbatini (SA) 72 73 70

Dustin Johnson (US) 75 71 69

Noh Seung-Yul (S Kor) 72 70 73


Kang Sung-Hon (S Kor) 74 72 70

Chez Reavie (US) 70 75 71

Martin Kaymer (Ger) 74 70 72

Padraig Harrington (Irl) 71 73 72

Johan Edfors (Swe) 70 72 74

Alexander Noren (Swe) 75 67 74


Robert Karlsson (Swe) 79 67 71

Gregory Havret (Fr) 77 69 71

Retief Goosen (SA) 73 73 71

Gary Woodland (US) 73 71 73

Bud Cauley (US) 71 72 74

Robert Rock (Eng) 70 71 76


Lucas Glover (US) 76 69 73

Michael Putnam (US) 74 71 73

Jeff Overton (US) 72 72 74

Ryo Ishikawa (Japan) 74 70 74

Brian Gay (US) 73 71 74

Edoardo Molinari (It) 74 70


Adam Hadwin (Can) 75 71 73

Matteo Manassero (It) 74 72 73

Marcel Siem (Ger) 79 66 74


Charley Hoffman (US) 71 74 75

Bubba Watson (US) 71 75 74

Luke Donald (Eng) 74 72 74

Kenichi Kuboya (Japan) 73 73 74

Kevin Streelman (US) 73 73 74

Scott Piercy (US) 73 71 76

Phil Mickelson (US) 74 69 77


Christo Greyling (SA) 72 74 75

Anthony Kim (US) 74 72 75

Bae Sang-Moon (S Kor) 75 71 75

Alexandre Rocha (Br) 69 76 76

J J Henry (US) 72 73 76

Justin Hicks (US) 74 71 76


Todd Hamilton (US) 73 72 77


Wes Heffernan (Can) 75 71 79

Brad Benjamin (US)* 72 73 80