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McIlroy says he's better at managing 'waves of momentum' after recovery from third hole

‘Came back well today after a tough start and right in the mix,’ said the four-time major winner, who’s a shot adrift at Brookline. ‘Couldn’t be any happier.’

Rory McIlroy in action during his second round at The Country Club.
Rory McIlroy in action during his second round at The Country Club.
Image: Julio Cortez

RORY MCILROY WANTS to ride emotional waves of momentum to his first major title since 2014 this weekend at the US Open, feeling a boost from crowds and the course.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion, overcame a double-bogey disaster at the third hole and a shaky middle round with three birdies in the last seven holes to shoot a one-under par 69 Friday, sharing third on four-under 136 — a shot back on the leaders Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen — after 36 holes at The Country Club.

“I think I ride waves of momentum pretty easily. Certainly whenever you get on the crest of a wave, you try to ride it as long as you can, and I’ve gotten a little bit better at trying not to ride the other ones downwardly,” McIlroy said.

“This golf course, there’s a nice flow to it that you can get on a little bit of a run and start to make some birdies, and if I do encounter that this week, I feel like I’m pretty good at riding those sort of waves of momentum through the course of a round.”

Cheering fans supported third-ranked McIlroy through a roller coaster round, their emotions and his feeding off one another.

“I think I play quite an emotive brand of golf, if there is such a thing,” McIlroy said. “I’ve always liked having crowds. I like the interaction. I enjoy that part. I like seeing people out there. Maybe that’s part of it.

“I’ve been out here a long time. Maybe they feel like they’ve watched me grow up and they’ve sort of been on that journey with me.”

It has been quite a tale. From the squandered chance while leading in the final round of the 2011 Masters to bouncing back and winning the next major at the 2011 US Open, to taking the 2012 PGA Championship and the 2014 British Open and PGA, the Northern Ireland star has captivated fans worldwide.

This weekend, he’s among a host of big names near the top, including seventh-ranked co-leader Morikawa, second-ranked defending champion Jon Rahm also on 136 and top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler on 137.

“You want to go up against the best to try to bring the best out of yourself,” McIlroy said. “And to see Collin and Jon and Scottie and Sam (Burns on 138) up there and whoever else, that’s what major championship golf is all about.

“I want guys to go out and shoot 65 so I have to go and shoot 64. That’s competition, and that’s at the heart of this game. I’m excited to be in that mix going into the weekend.”

Overcoming an early setback helped bolster McIlroy’s confidence as well.

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“I stayed patient, and I knew I was going to give myself chances if I just hit the ball the way I’ve been hitting it,” McIlroy said. “Today was a really good example of just having a good attitude.

“I didn’t panic. I didn’t do anything stupid. I didn’t force anything. I was rewarded with that patience by playing a really good back nine.”

While one adrift of US co-leaders Morikawa and Dahmen, McIlroy likes where he’s at for the fight to unfold.

“I’m really happy with my position,” he said. “Came back well today after a tough start and right in the mix. Couldn’t be any happier.”

– © AFP 2022

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