McIlroy defends big US Open lead - Pakistan Today

McIlroy defends big US Open lead

The chase was on to reel in runaway leader Rory McIlroy in the third round of the US Open at Congressional Country Club here on Saturday. The 22-year-old Ulsterman has blown the field apart in the first two days with rounds of 65 and 66 giving him the lowest first 36 holes in US Open history. He stands at 11-under, five clear of second-placed Yang Yong-Eun of South Korea with Americans Robert Garrigus, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar as well as Spain’s Sergio Garcia a further three strokes adrift.
McIlroy, seemingly pre-destined for golfing glory since he first burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old amateur at the 2007 Carnoustie British Open, said he intends to stay the course by continuing to be “aggressive” and “cocky”. “I just try and have a bit of an attitude,” he explained. His play so far has delighted the big crowds at this course west of Washington, frequented by US presidents and lawmakers, and left many of his rivals open-mounthed in admiration, evoking memories of the young Tiger Woods.
But one big question marks hangs over the young buck – will he collapse again as he did in the second round of the last year’s British Open at St Andrews and at the final round of this years Masters at Augusta National. On both occasions, he led the tournament only for his game to disintegrate with resulting 80s. At his shoulder ready to pounce will be Yang, a tough and uncompromising 39-year-old who knows something about making comebacks. Two years ago, he made golfing history by coming from two strokes behind to defeat Tiger Woods for the PGA Championship title at Hazeltine in Minnesota.
It was the first time in 15 attempts that Woods had failed to win a major title when leading or tied for the lead entering the final round.
In so doing, Yang became the first Asian man to win a major title, earning him instant celebrity throughout the continent. He also produced a remarkable comeback, he points out, last year to win the Korea Open after starting the third round 10 strokes adrift of third round leader Noh Seung-Yul, who also made the cut here at even par. “Anything can happen in golf, really,” was his blunt assessment of the challange facing him at the weekend.
For those more distant from the lead, many appear already to have consigned themselves to playing for second place. But as in life, in golf, hope springs eternal as world No.2 Lee Westwood intimated.
“I think that’s the attitude I’m going to go with over the next couple of days — to try and get past whoever is in the second spot — and we’ll see what Rory does,” the Englishman said. “He’s had leads before.” With 72 players into the weekend and the final pairing of McIlroy and Yang not due off before 3:50 pm local time (1950 GMT) due to the end of the second round being held over until Saturday morning, organizers were facing a race against the clock to have the round completed by sunset. Earlier, Rory McIlroy’s history-making start to the 111th US Open became official Saturday morning with the completion of the storm-interrupted second round at Congressional Country Club.
The 22-year-old Northern Ireland prodigy fired a five-under par 66 on Friday to seize a six-stroke lead over South Korean Yang Yong-Eun, McIlroy’s total of 11-under par 131 the lowest 36-hole start in US Open history.
“I’ve played two really good rounds of golf but I know I have to play another two really good rounds of golf if I want to win,” McIlroy said.
“I have to keep it going over the next couple of days. I’m halfway there, but there is still a long way to go.”
A storm that halted play Friday for 42 minutes pushed the conclusion of the second round to Saturday morning, but none of the 21 players who had to return to finish were a threat to approach McIlroy or even Yang.
In all, 72 players made the cut at four-over par 146.
McIlroy is the youngest 36-hole leader at the US Open in 97 years, since Walter Hagen led the 1914 US Open at age 21.
The Ulsterman’s margin matched the largest 36-hole lead in the tournament’s history, the six-stroke edge Tiger Woods enjoyed after two rounds at Pebble Beach in 2000 on his way to a majors-record 15-stroke romp.
That victory began a run of four major triumphs in a row for Woods, the infamous “Tiger Slam”. And with McIlroy contending in his fourth major in a row there are many who already see the rising star as the next Tiger.
But such comparisons might wait until McIlroy wins a major title. He has squandered two great chances with big leads in prior majors and learned from the experiences. At the Masters two months ago, McIlroy led by four shots entering the final round and by a stroke with nine holes to play before a triple-bogey at the 10th led to a horrid back nine and a final round 80 that left him sharing 15th.

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