McIlroy believes US Open reverse might be "a blessing in disguise"
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy banished his US Open blues with a birdie bonanza at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut and believes his missed cut at Shinnecock Hills might prove to be a blessing in disguise.

After spending last weekend and the early part of this week working on rediscovering old feelings with his swing, the world No 7 hit every green in regulation until his foot slipped as he was hitting his approach to the 18th at TPC River Highlands and he closed with a bogey.

But he was pleased to make seven birdies in a super 64 to lie just one stroke behind leaders Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson on six-under-par and sees good things ahead.

"A couple of 64s back-to-back is quite nice," said McIlroy, who closed with a 64 at TPC Highlands 12 months ago. 

"Yeah, I played really well today. I feel like the work that I did over the weekend sort of started to pay off already.

"It was nice to see the shots I was playing right there. Being able to work the ball both ways was something I wasn't quite as comfortable doing last week.

"Obviously, you never want to miss a cut in a major, but it might have been a blessing in disguise for the rest of the year."

McIlroy believes he been quite the same since suffering his ankle injury in 2015 and he's trying to get back to swinging the club the way he did before he won his first two majors.

"I mean, I'm trying to get back to the way I swung in sort of 2010, 2011," he said. "It's sort of hard because my body has changed quite a bit since then and the feelings I have.

"But the feeling I have right now is the feeling I had in the middle of 2009. So it's just trying to go back, and, okay, I was swinging it really well then.

"What was I doing? What was I thinking about? What was the focus on the swing? Just trying to rack your brain to recreate feelings that you had back then.

"That's basically what I did over the weekend. I got a feeling that really sort of resonated with me and brought me back to a time when I was swinging it really well, and just sort of went with that feeling."

He started like a train, rattling in birdies at four of his first six holes before knocking in three more in a row from the 13th.

But he didn't feel there is much difference between the way he swung the club in shooting a US Open wrecking 80 a week earlier — bar his inability to hang tough.

"I think it wasn't a normal day," he said of the first round at Shinnecock Hills. "It was tough. You just needed to hang in there. Anything around 75, 76 would have kept you in the golf tournament as Brooks proved shooting 75.

"So I didn't need to play that differently on Thursday, I just needed to hang in there a little bit more, hole some putts, get some momentum going."

It was also a good day for Pádraig Harrington (46), who fired his first bogey-free round for three months after an impressive tee to green performance, missing just one fairway en route to a four-under 66.

“I think I only missed one fairway and it’s easier to play golf hitting fairways — a lot easier than where I am normally playing from,” said Harrington, who is keen to be ready for The Open at Carnoustie, where he won in 2007.

"I like what I see. I have four weeks into Carnoustie and it’s all about getting my head in the right place.

"The goal is to tee it up at Carnoustie and not feel like I needed another week or have any regrets about being ready. 

"Regardless of how I play, I want to feel I am getting my preparation right for the majors, especially now at this stage of my career where I am running out of chances. 

"Every time I turn up that I am not ready is a disappointment. If I play well, that’s circumstantial, but not doing the right preparation, that hurts.”

I want to feel I am getting my preparation right for the majors, especially now at this stage of my career where I am running out of chances. 
— Pádraig Harrington

Early leader Johnson was critical of last week's third round set-up at the US Open.

But he was beaming from ear to ear after making eight birdies, including six in a row on the back nine, in his 63.

"We all as competitors and golfers, we want to have really, really difficult tests that make you push it physically and mentally,"  Johnson said.

"You know, we want that for everybody across the board in a fair manner. I think the PGA Tour, specifically this tournament, does a great job in that."

US Open champion Brooks Koepka took up where he left off on Sunday, drilling home four birdies in his first five holes before the adrenaline finally wore off late in the day.

He dropped three shots in his last six holes, three-putting the ninth from nine feet for bogey and a 68 but was still pleased that his game is still there.

"I just ran out of gas," said Koepka, whose efforts to get some rest back in Florida on Monday weren't helped by an early morning visit from pal Dustin Johnson. 

"I'm exhausted mentally. I tried to get some rest when I was back home, but we got home at about 4:30, fell asleep by 4:45, and I woke up, Dustin was in my living room at 8:00. 

"He came over on the boat to say 'hi'. So it was not as much rest as I would have liked."

Seamus Power three-putted three times in his first 10 holes before holing twice from off the green in his last five to card a level par 70.

Out in level par, he bogeyed his 10th, 11th and 12th before making an 18-foot par putt from the fringe at the fifth.

He then tapped in for birdie at the par-five sixth and drained a 35 footer at the seventh before holing a 50 footer from the fringe at the eighth.

Graeme McDowell struggled to hit fairways and opened with a two-over 72 and it was also a testing day for The Island's Paul McBride at the BMW International Open in Germany.

Making his first appearance in a full European Tour event as a professional,  the Malahide star (22) made just one birdie against five bogeys in an opening 76  at Golf Club Gut Laerchenhof.

Battling a three-club wind at times, he's eight strokes adrift of Frenchman Sebastien Gros, who mastered windy conditions to shoot a four-under 68 for a one-shot over Spaniard Jorge Campillo, Scotland's Scott Jamieson, Englishman Aaron Rai and Swede Henric Sturehed.

Local favourite Martin Kaymer shot a 72, Sergio Garcia a 73 and US Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood a two-over-par 74.