Rory McIlroy is gone, he's out of sight, in a different county, on another dimension, doing his finest impression of Tiger Woods in his heyday.
To say the 111th US Open is his for the taking is a bit like saying tomorrow is Sunday. He may only be halfway but he is so almost in paradise.
Whatever he goes on to achieve – or, whisper it, blow – in these next two days, there are some glories already in that golden grasp. A 66 on the second day to go with his 65 of the first took him to 11-under. This was the lowest second-round total in 116 years of the US Open. And but for a double-bogey on the 18th, when visiting the water, McIlroy would have broken Nick Faldo's record for the lowest second-round total in the 151-year history of the majors.
Is that final hole-blunder a reason to doubt the 22-year-old? For some, perhaps. But they can't have witnessed the previous 35 holes which qualify this as one of golf's greatest starts. Nobody has ever been 13-under in the US Open before. Not even Tiger Woods.
"This was pretty much the best golf I can play," said McIlroy, who has now led after five of the six major rounds played so far this year. "Every time I get myself in a position in a major I am feeling more and more comfortable. But I know, more than probably anyone, what can happen. I've got to stay focused and try to finish this thing off."
"Remember Augusta," bellow the naysayers. Mind all of us while we forget how he surrendered a four-shot lead with that final-round 80 and instead remember Pebble Beach. Not so much last year's victory of Graeme McDowell – although as McIlroy's countryman and best friend this is obviously pertinent – but of 2000. There is no bigger compliment to pay the young Ulsterman than to say he resembled the runaway pacesetter 11 years ago. Just like Woods, McIlroy is six clear at halfway. The South Korean Y E Yang is five-under after a 69 and there is another three back to a group in third, including Sergio Garcia.
Of course, few truly expect McIlroy to emulate Woods' 15-stroke romp, although the evidence of his form screams at the possibility. It stretches deep into the incredible that he went 35 holes without a bogey here; just as it strains credibility to accept that he has hit 32 of the 36 greens in regulation. Last night he was quoted by the bookmakers as being long odds-on to become the youngest winner of the US Open in 88 years. In 1923 the young winner's name was Bobby Jones.
That is the calibre of legend beckoning McIlroy, a player who Ernie Els said on the eve of this major "has the talent to change history". Perhaps the peerlessness of his brilliance here is best summed up by the comparison with his partner Phil Mickelson. Totally eclipsed on Thursday, the four-time major champion at least raised a few cheers in his own second-round 69. But on one-over he is 12 behind and shaking his head at the upstart alongside. "He's striking it flawlessly," said the left-hander. Meanwhile his caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay asked: "Is there a 'B' flight this week?"
The image of the day was when McIlroy stood in the middle of the eighth fairway arms aloft and Mickelson joined in the applause. Naturally the eagle on that 354-yard par-four was the highlight of this or any round completed on the 7,574-yard monster. From 113 yards McIlroy landed a wedge shot a trifle left, 30 feet behind the flag and then waited for it to make its inexorable progress. And so it span backwards, and so it veered across, and so it picked up pace, and so it plopped. What a way to become just the fifth player to reach double-digits under par in the US Open.
Fortunate? A tad. Yet such had been the quality of McIlroy's nerveless opening it would have been churlish in the extreme to suggest so. The first birdie came on the fourth when he rolled in a 30-footer and then on the par-five sixth he whipped in a wedge to four feet. Inevitably there were a few tense moments in the middle, although the manner in which he dealt with them inspired so much hope. On the par-three 10th his tee-shot scraped over the water. No bother. A two-putt par. On the 11th he missed a green but splashed out to 10 feet and holed the putt. A rumour went around that Tiger had put out a tweet saying, "Who does this kid think he is? Me?" Woods hadn't. But he should have.
As McIlroy moved through the 14th – yet another approach to a few feet – the gap seemed to extend with every stride. On the 579-yard 16th he hit his second to nine feet. This was ridiculous, although a sliver of reality invaded the fantasy when the putt slid by. Oh, disaster, it was only a birdie. On the 17th his 15-footer for a three located the centre of the hole. The record was on. A par for a halfway total of 129, bettering by one the historic mark set by Faldo at the 1992 Open at Muirfield.
Alas the drive was pulled and he followed Mickelson into the lake on the left of the green. McIlroy failed to get up and down but still the smile beamed. His performance had overshadowed each and every tale in the tournament. Special mention should be given to Garcia, who has been resurrected with a 69 and 71, while Englishman Robert Rock's week has been bizarre.
He didn't arrive in Washington until 3.30am on Thursday morning having experienced "visa problems" and taking a $1,000 taxi trip down from New York. No practice round, plenty of jet lag. But last week's Italian Open winner has fared impressively playing "blind', standing at one-under par after a 70 and 71. Take out McIlroy and Rock would in contention. But Rory is there right enough. Riding so high, dreaming so big.
Congressional G & CC, Bethesda, Maryland (US unless stated, par 71)
65 R McIlroy (NIrl)
68 C Schwartzel (SA); Y E Yang (S Kor)
69 A Rocha (Br); S Hend (Aus); S Garcia (Sp); R Palmer; L Oosthuizen (SA); K T Kim (S Kor)
70 R Garrigus; G McDowell (NIrl); J Senden (Aus); D Love III; S Cink; A Quiros (Sp); J Edfors (Swe); C Reavie; R Rock (Eng); B Dickerson; B Snedeker; H Stenson (Swe)
71 C Hoffman; Z Johnson; B Watson; A Cabrera (Arg); H Slocum; J Day (Aus); A Baddeley (Aus); C Deforest; W Cauley; B Jobe; D May; P Harrington (Ire)
72 R Sabbatini (SA); S Noh (S Kor); C Greyling (SA); J Overton; H Frazar; M Kuchar; P Hanson (Swe); P Uihlein; J J Henry; S Lowry (Ire); B Benjamin
73 B Gay; G Woodland; T Hamilton; D Kim (S Kor); K Kuboya (Japan); B Haas; M Leishman (Aus); E Els (SA); R Henley; M Laird (Sco); R Goosen (SA); S Piercy; K Streelman; S Gallacher (Sco); R Allenby (Aus); P Casey (Eng); R Moore
74 J Hicks; D Toms; M Manassero (It); M Kaymer (Ger); J Rose (Eng); R Fowler; E Molinari (It); A Scott (Aus); M Putnam; S Saunders; C Wilson; P Mickelson; R Ishikawa (Japan); D.A. Points; H Mahan; A Kim; S Kang (S Kor); J Furyk; F Jacobson (Swe); J Ellis; C Pan (Chin); L Donald (Eng)
75 N Watney; F Molinari (It); W Heffernan (Can); G Ogilvy (Aus); P Cantlay; A Hadwin (Can); W Simpson; A Noren (Swe); S Barr (Aus); T Petrovic; B Baird; L Westwood (Eng); S Stricker; R Nelson; J Dufner; M Campbell (NZ); B Locke; F Funk; A Cejka (Ger); D Johnson; M Tobiason jr; T Immelman (SA); M Edwards; S Bae (S Kor); I Poulter (Eng); J Byrd; T Levet (Fr)
76 K Triplett; B Blakeman; J Hutchins; C Campbell; J Mills (Can); B Van Pelt; J Lamielle; M Turnesa; L Glover; B Hossler; G Chalmers (Aus); N Colsaerts (Bel); K Chappell; M Smith; A Long; C Williams (SA)
77 B Adamonis; G Sisk; M Richardson (Eng); M Whitehead; Z Byrd; N O'Hern (Aus); B Crane; M A Jimenez (Sp); K J Choi (S Kor); E Gealy; C Villegas (Col); B Patterson; G Havret (Fr)
78 S Irwin; D Howell (GB); R Dinwiddie (GEng); A Harto (Den); M Wilson
79 A Gonzales; M Siem (Ger); S Pinckney; M Lafeber (Neth); H Fujita (Japan); R Karlsson (Swe); W Wilcox; D Kim (S Kor) 80 K Na 82 D Chung 83 M Barbosa
84 T Tryon
Second Round Scores
131 R McIlroy (NIrl) 65 66
137 Y E Yang (S Kor) 68 69
140 Z Johnson 71 69; R Garrigus 70 70; S Garcia (Sp) 69 71; B Snedeker 70 70
141 R Rock (Eng) 70 71; A Quiros (Sp) 70 71; K T Kim (S Kor) 69 72
142 S Y Noh (S Kor) 72 70; A Noren (Swe) 75 67; C Schwartzel (SA) 68 74; J Senden (Aus) 70 72; P Cantlay 75 67
143 P Hanson (Swe) 72 71; P Mickelson 74 69; B Van Pelt 76 67; K Chappell 76 67
144 S Stricker 75 69; Do-hoon Kim (S Kor) 73 71; E Molinari (It) 74 70
145 A Rocha (Br) 69 76; C Hoffman 71 74; R Sabbatini (SA) 72 73; L Glover 76 69; M Putnam 74 71; T Hamilton 73 72
146 H Mahan 74 72; D Johnson 75 71; R Goosen (SA) 73 73; Sang-moon Bae (S Kor) 75 71; W Heffernan (Can) 75 71; M Manassero (It) 74 72; K Kuboya (Japan) 73 73
147 C Deforest 71 76; S Hend (Aus) 69 78; S Gallacher (Sco) 73 74; M Laird (GB) 73 74; R Fowler 74 73; D May 71 76
148 A Baddeley (Aus) 71 77; N Watney 75 73; B Crane 77 71; I Poulter (Eng) 75 73; E Gealy 77 71; M Wilson 78 70
149 F Molinari (It) 75 74; A Gonzales 79 70; J Dufner 75 74; D Toms 74 75; B Blakeman 76 73; T Immelman (SA) 75 74; C Williams (SA) 76 73; J Mills (Can) 76 73; C Villegas (Col) 77 72; B Baird 75 74
150 S Barr (Aus) 75 75; M Angel Jimenez (Sp) 77 73; G Ogilvy (Aus) 75 75; R Moore 73 77
151 R Allenby (Aus) 73 78; B Dickerson 70 81
152 C Wilson 74 78; D Howell (Eng) 78 74; R Dinwiddie (Eng) 78 74; C P Pan (China) 74 78; H Fujita (Japan) 79 73
153 R Nelson 75 78; B Hossler 76 77; M Lafeber (Neth) 79 74; B Locke 75 78
154 S Pinckney 79 75; A Harto (Den) 78 76
155 S Irwin 78 77; K Na 80 75; G Sisk 77 78; B Patterson 77 78
157 T Tryon 84 73
158 M Richardson (GB) 77 81Reuse content