McIlroy and McDowell see deficiencies exposed by Pinehurst

McIlroy and McDowell see deficiencies exposed by Pinehurst

Rory McIlroy during Saturday's third round at Pinehurst No 2. Picture: Eoin Clarke

Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy are two of the best in the world but even the best have weaknesses and they were cruelly exposed by Pinehurst No 2 on Saturday.

In McDowell's case, the change in the nature of the course that came with Thursday night's rain, scuppered his plans of having everyone play from the same spots. Having shot himself in the foot with some uncharacteristic errors around the greens in Fridays 74, a 75 on Saturday was the result of mental fatigue and a course set-up that would test the patience of Job himself.

As for McIlroy, his aggression and sometimes questionable course management was never going to be rewarded by Pinehurst's repellant greens. A bad nine-hole run has cost him several events already this year a front nine of 40 was no huge surprise.

As McDowell went out in 39 en route to a 75 that eventually left him tied 42nd on seven over, 15 shots behind the imperious Martin Kaymer, McIlroy tried to close the gap on the Martin Kaymer and fell further behind.

It was his fifth event of the season featuring a nine-hole stretch of 40 blows or more but this one was expensive as he bogeyed the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth before a rally to shoot 34 on the bck nine for a 74.

At 11 shots out of the lead, he was left scratching his head over yet another bad stretch.

A three-putt, some unlucky breaks and even more questionable course management decisions were to blame on a course that was going to magnify mistakes ten-fold.

Graeme McDowell plays his second at the second the third round. Picture: Eoin Clarke

"Shooting five over for the front nine put me out of the tournament," said McIlroy, who had targeted a pair of weekend 68s and a five under total.

“I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t really keep it together today."

And the bad runs? 

“It might be a little bit to do with once I get on a run and maybe trying a little too hard to get out of it and that compounds the issue,” McIlroy said. “I need to figure out these nine holes of golf where instead of it being four over or five over, maybe one or two over, just limiting the damage a little bit.”

McIlroy still thinks he can finish in the Top 10 if he can get back to level par today.

"That is my target now. If I had kept it together and shot around par I might have had a bit of a chance. I got off to a pretty rough start. I played OK but just left myself in some difficult spots and could not get up and down.

"I played well in the back nine, pretty solid, and recovered it a little bit. But it was not what I was looking for at the start of the day."

McDowell bogeyed the second and birdied the 542-yard fourth thanks to a glorious fairway wood to around 10 feet. But like many others, he suffered before the turn and bogeyed four holes in a row from the sixth.

You start thinking to yourself, ‘I’m not even sure if I want to play tomorrow.’ It’s not really enjoyable.
— Graeme McDowell on US Open punishment

He was mentally KO after his rough Friday and Saturday's front nine was no huge surprise.

“It’s very, very difficult mentally, to stay in it,” McDowell said. “You start thinking to yourself, ‘I’m not even sure if I want to play tomorrow.’ It’s not really enjoyable. It’s not enjoyable. It’s very difficult. But it’s the U.S. Open.”

McDowell opened with a 68 thanks to a controlled, conservative game plan but Thursday night's rain scuppered his plans. With the course playing into the hands of the big hitters, he made some uncharacteristic mistakes arounds the greens, making four bogeys and a double bogey in a 74.

Firm conditions and near impossible pin positions made it impossible for him to gain ground and after going out in 39, he made two more bogeys at the 13th and 16th before a two at the 17th eased some of the pain.

“This is a hard golf course for me because it’s so long,” McDowell said. “I don’t get a lot of wedges in my hands, short irons in my hands. That’s the strength of my game.

"My iron play hasn’t been bad. I just haven’t given myself enough opportunities. It’s the US Open, golf’s toughest test. And they were right today.”