Out of sorts Rory faces race against time at Oakmont

Out of sorts Rory faces race against time at Oakmont
 Rory McIlroy hits his second shot on the 18th hole during the first round for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Friday, June 17, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Rory McIlroy hits his second shot on the 18th hole during the first round for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Friday, June 17, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Jeff Haynes)

He didn’t quite throw in the towel but Rory McIlroy looked so rushed, so flustered and so out of sorts with his game that his target of a second round 66 to rescue the disaster of his opening 77 looks utterly unrealistic.

Forget about the 34 putts that the world No 3 had in the joint worst round of his US Open career, matching his opening 77 at Olympic Club in 2012, where he missed the cut.

The problem is not desire but time, and while he planned to return to the range yesterday evening to try and correct his swing before wrestling the gorilla of Oakmont for the second time today, he may already have done too much damage with his seven over par opening round.

“There is a 66, a 67,” he said looking at an imaginary leaderboard in his head after a bogey-bogey-bogey finish severely dented his chances of winning a second US Open. 

“There are scores out there to be had. But you really need to be in control of your golf swing though and today, or over the last two days, I haven’t been.”

McIlroy resumed his delayed first round on four over par but having driven close the front of the 14th and chipped up close, all the energy in his game appeared to evaporate as the putt failed to drop.

Had it not been for a great par save from 10 feet at the 15th, where he sliced a driver into deep rough and had to hack back into play, it might have been worse.

But his miss right there was symptomatic of a misfiring swing and he also missed the green right at the par-three 16th, shortsiding himself to notch an automatic bogey,

Going for the green at the 17th, he found the deep left bunker and was shocked to see his recovery scuttle into the even deeper bunker on the far side. 
Taking precious little time over the second bunker shot, he made bogey there too.

Inevitably, the carved his drive wide into the gallery at the 18th and having come up a yard short of the green in the heavy rough with his approach, he gouged a pitch some eight feet past the hole and never threatened to make the par putt.

 Rory McIlroy walks up the green on the 18th hole during the first round for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Friday, June 17, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Rory McIlroy walks up the green on the 18th hole during the first round for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Friday, June 17, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Other players might have slinked away but to his credit, McIlroy manfully answered questions and set himself a lofty target.

“There are low scores out there and if I’m able to get myself together, I feel like I will be able to shoot one of those and I can stick around for the weekend at least,” he said hopefully. “I need to shoot something like 66 in the next round to give myself any chance.

“It’s been tough. It’s a long first round, it’s taken us over 24 hours to complete it. 

“I’ve got a lot of time now between now and going back out there so I will rest up a bit, come back out here this evening and hit a few balls and try to figure out what the problem is with my swing. 

“I have a good idea but it is just matter  of hitting enough balls and get a feeling or swing thought to take on the course.”

McIlroy wasn’t 100 percent happy with his game to start with and when he adopted a conservative approach and still missed fairways with irons,he knew he was in trouble.

“Right now I just need to focus on trying to hit fairways and hit greens. I think I hit five fairways and eight greens out there, which obviously isn't going to do anything.

“I think for me the toughest thing is just trying to stay positive and not get too down on myself and try to get out there tomorrow morning and try to play well and make it into the weekend.”

On the failure of his safety first strategy — he missed fairways with irons —  he said: “Yeah, and that didn’t work out.

“With the way the golf course is, with it being so soft, I might just go out there in the second round and hit a lot of drivers and try to be as aggressive as I possibly can be.”