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I just wasn't prepared for those conditions - McIlroy

Rory McIlroy reacts to his tee shot off the eighth hole during the second round of the US Open Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Rory McIlroy reacts to his tee shot off the eighth hole during the second round of the US Open Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy confessed that he was taken by surprise and blown away by Thursday's high winds in the US Open.

While he recovered from his disastrous opening 80 with a level par 70, the Co Down man struggled to come to terms with missing the cut in golf's ultimate test for the third year running.

"The conditions took me by surprise yesterday and that is what really got me," McIlroy said of his opening round nightmare.

"Obviously the conditions were a lot better today and I played well - the way I have been playing in the conditions I've been practising in - and obviously we didn't get those conditions yesterday.

"It feels like the last three years I have only had three Majors to target and this one has been a write-off!"

He went out in 39 to soar to 14-over, three-putting the second and seventh before running up a double bogey at the ninth after tangling with the heavy rough. And while he rallied at the finish, picking up birdies at the 11th, 13th, 16th and 17th in calming late afternoon conditions, the damage was already do.

"It's tough," he said. "Every time you come into a US Open you know it's going to be tough and I felt like my game was all there.

"I showed glimpses of it on the back nine today, but I just wish I had handled the conditions a bit better yesterday. If I had parred the last three holes yesterday the difference between 78 and 80 would have felt huge.

"There was a couple of holes yesterday and a couple today that I wish I could get back but that's the way it is. I felt my game was in good shape - I felt the long game was there; the short game was there I just….I felt like I didn't hit that bad shots yesterday - I just wasn't prepared for those conditions."

It's his fifth missed cut in the big ones since he captured his fourth Major title at Valhalla nearly four years ago.

And while you can point it his five successive top-10 finishes in the Masters and back-to-back top-five finishes in The Open as indicators that there's little wrong, his high expectations and those of his admirers make winning just one other tournament since he captured the Tour Championship in September 2016 look like under-achievement.

At the top of the leaderboard, a cool and calm Dustin Johnson shot an imperious 67 to lead by four strokes on four-under par from Scott Piercy (71) and Charley Hoffman (69) with Tommy Fleetwood (66), Henrik Stenson (70), Justin Rose (70), holder Brooks Koepka (66) and Ian Poulter (72) five behind on one-over.

Butchered

Poulter was just a shot behind Johnson on three-under with two holes to go. But he butchered the eighth from the middle of the fairway, running up a triple bogey seven after thinning a bunker shot over the green into heavy rough before dropping another shot at the last.

With the cut projected to fall at eight-over par, it meant early exits too for Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.

The 2010 champion was easily the happier of the two, chiselling out a level par 70 less than 24 hours after using his putter 42 times (36 officially) in an opening 79.

Lowry, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction as his putter remained ice-cold, adding a 79 to his opening 75 to finish hopelessly outside the cut line on 14-over.

A 32-putt round would not usually give McDowell reason to be cheerful, but after the carnage of day one, he was pleased to remind himself that he really is playing well and hadn't quite been "US Open-ed".

"If I had gone out and shot another 75 or something today I would have left here very disappointed because my game is in good shape at the minute," McDowell said,

"So that was pleasing to do as well as I did, especially on that back nine. If it misses, it misses. Fine. At least I know I am still hitting it good.

"Thankfully I have managed to play decent tee to green and not get US Open-ed and walk away thinking I am not playing well."

Out in two over after following a birdie at the third with a bogey at the treacherous seventh and a double-bogey at the ninth, where he three-putted from 20 yards, McDowell was thrilled to come home in two-under thanks to birdies from nine feet at both the 10th and 16th.

Lowry shot 75 on Thursday despite having three three-putts and a four-putt.

He was hoping to get out yesterday, make a few putts, shoot 70 and put himself in the mix.

But he three-putted the first for bogey instead, missed chances at the second and third, couldn't save par when he bunkered his approach to the sixth and then saw another chance slip by at the seventh.

Paul McGinley used to joke on such days that "there's a goalkeeper in the hole and he's playing a blinder."

But after dropping another shot at the ninth to slip to eight over before coming home in 41 for his 79, Lowry was in no mood to be consoled.

"I wasn't even hitting the goal, so the goalkeeper had nothing to deal with," he said. "Yesterday I done myself in playing so well and not shooting the score I needed to.

"Today you want to get off to a decent start and I three-putted the first. I gathered myself after that, but if you hit it in the rough, you can't make par."

When someone suggested that "everybody" was having problems, Lowry was having none of it.

"Dustin is four under, so it wasn't everybody," he said. "There were good scores out there today."

Then, cutting himself a little slack, he said: "It is not the end of the world. This course will beat you up, even on the best of days."

US Open,
Live, Sky Sports Golf, 4.30

Irish Independent

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