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McIlroy holds nerve after disastrous third to stay within a shot of US Open lead

Collin Morikawa leads the way with Joel Dahmen at the time of writing, while Shane Lowry is set to miss the cut at Brookline.

McIlroy on 18.
McIlroy on 18.
Image: Charles Krupa

OVERNIGHT JOINT LEADER Rory McIlroy could have written himself out of contention for the US Open as early as the third hole of his second round at Brookline, but he produced a long-range putt to rescue a double-bogey six and subsequently held his nerve to shoot a 69 which keeps him right in the hunt for a fifth major title.

McIlroy’s one-under-par round leaves him only a shot behind leaders Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen (the latter thru 17 at the time of writing), tied with Jon Rahm, Aaron Wise, and the 259th-ranked Hayden Buckley on four under par heading into Saturday.

The Holywood native parred his opening couple of holes before his latest major tilt almost hit the skids on the par-four third. McIlroy hit a picture-perfect tee shot down the centre of the fairway only for his subsequent approach to find the knee-high fescue wide right of the pin.

McIlroy took two swipes through the long grass but scarcely moved his ball. With a third effort, he finally connected properly, chipping 23 feet beyond the hole.

Staring down the barrel of complete catastrophe, he drained the long-range putt for what could only be described as a double-bogey save. That he fist-bumped as he dropped to 15th on the leaderboard illustrated the importance of that particular conversion as he at least escaped the third with his sanity intact.

He moved back to two under par for the tournament on the fifth, tapping in for birdie after a tidy chip took him to within inches of a two on the reachable par four. He undid that good work with a bogey on the very next hole.

McIlroy birdied again on eight, bogeyed 10, but recovered again with a birdies on 12 and 14.

And an essentially steady round became a good round when he sunk a clutch uphill putt for birdie on 17, taking him to within a shot of Collin Morikawa who was about to par his final hole.

Two-time major winner Morikawa fired a four-under-par 66 to seize the tournament lead, standing on five-under 135 after 36 holes at the Country Club.

Morikawa won last year’s British Open and the 2020 PGA Championship and the 25-year-old American could become the first player to win three different majors since Tiger Woods.

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Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, with an eagle and two birdies in the last six holes, was in a chasing pack on 137, a shot further back than McIlroy, Rahm, Wise and Buckley.

Seamus Power is one over for the tournament, six shots off the lead after an even-par 70 on Friday. He’ll be back again tomorrow but Shane Lowry, on four over through 36 holes, is set to miss out on the weekend by a shot.

- With reporting from AFP

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