McIlroy heads for early exit but Westwood battles back

 

Olympic Club

It is a job to know which was handing out the greater lesson, a brutal US Open course or life. A year ago he was the toast of Congressional, a 22-year-old supernova ripping up the tournament template with a pair of 65s en route to a record low score. How America loved Rory McIlroy, the tousled haired cherub with a murderous swing and the confidence to go for everything.

Twelve months on he left by a side door, wondering how a talent as deep as his could yield so little. A second round 73 was an improvement on the day before but not enough to avoid a fourth missed cut in five. He hit it well enough, he thought. A touch here, a bounce there and 10-over might have been plus five. From there he could have attacked the weekend.

The margins are minute in this business. And none is above a kicking on any given day. It is not something to be taken personally. And that is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn for it requires that McIlroy remove himself from the centre of the universe for five minutes and recognise that, as gifted as he is, he cannot take every course to pieces. Even the great ones have off days.

The post-round soundbites were encouraging. "Yeah it has been a tough six weeks or so. I realise that you have just got to keep working hard. It doesn't come easy to you all the time. It hasn't been the greatest run, but as I said, I still see enough good stuff in the rounds that it does give me hope that it's not very far away."

McIlroy did not suffer alone, not by a long way. World No 1 Luke Donald closed a shot further back on 11-over par. His wait to make any kind of impression at a major championship goes on. The sense that Donald cares too much is easily acquired. The promise to put the clubs away for a spell is well meant but hard to believe.

"I want to win one [major] more than any of you guys know. And obviously I'll continue to try and do that. I think I missed nine putts inside 10 feet [on Thursday] and just couldn't get the feel for the greens, the reads, the speed. And if I had putted a little bit better I could have ground out a score today and maybe been somewhere decently placed for the weekend. But it wasn't to be and I'm trying to learn from it and come back stronger next time."

The final member of the elite three-ball, Lee Westwood, escaped at plus five. If 2010 champion Graeme McDowell's instincts are right and par is good enough to win tomorrow, then Westwood is still a contender. He dashed from the 18th to watch the last knockings of England's Euro 2012 game with Sweden. An omen perhaps?

Were it not for three bogeys in his final four holes McDowell would have led in the clubhouse, just as he did two years ago at Pebble Beach. What is it about West Coast majors in the week of an international football championship and McDowell? At one-over after emulating the 72s of Donald and Westwood, he trades places with McIlroy in the role of heroic Ulsterman. "I feel like there's a fine line between 68 and 78. It was disappointing to drop three shots coming in, but that is what this course can do to you. You really got to give par a huge amount of respect. Very happy to be where I am. I think I played some really nice golf the last two days, made enough birdies to offset some mistakes, which I think is key."

The Pacific dawn in San Francisco is a thing of wonder. On a bad day you would take Grange-over-Sands. On a good day, and yesterday was one, there can be few better places on earth to start that day. Unless, that is, you have a golf club in your hand and a major to win. The United States Golf Association defended the course set-up, arguing that the game could tolerate at least once a year a championship that makes the players' pips squeak. Fair enough if the test is just, but as Westwood pointed out, a lot of good drives did not make the fairway on day one, and for golfers that is intolerable.

Overnight leader Michael Thompson shipped three shots in as many holes to come back to the field and surrender the romantic ticket to 17-year-old Beau Hossler, who went to the turn with a share of the US Open lead. A birdie at the 10th took Tiger Woods back to level par, one of the lead with eight to play. No one is running away with this.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor