- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2011

The U.S. Open is a national championship. Halfway through, it’s starting to feel a bit like a coronation.

Rory McIlroy reached the midpoint of his week at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club at 11-under after a second-round 66, enduring only a single misstep en route to a six-shot lead over Y.E. Yang.

“I’m feeling good,” McIlroy said in a statement of the obvious that elicited laughs. “Feeling very good.”

As well he should, especially as overnight thunderstorms further softened Congressional’s greens and made them receptive to the Northern Ireland native’s dissection of the course.

McIlroy and much of the field completed the second round, but 21 players will return early Saturday after darkness halted play shortly after 8 p.m.

U.S. Open leader Rory McIlroy arrives to tee off at the first hole during the second round of the 2011 U.S. Open Congressional, in Bethesda, Md., Friday, June 17, 2011, and the first day of competition. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
U.S. Open leader Rory McIlroy arrives to tee off at the first ... more >

McIlroy’s handiwork over the first two days scribbled his name on a handful of U.S. Open records throughout an eventful morning highlighted by an eagle from the fairway at the 8th hole.

His two-round total of 131 broke Ricky Barnes‘ two-year-old record for 36 holes at a U.S. Open by a stroke. He matched Tiger Woods‘ record six-shot edge after two rounds in the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach. He is the first player in the event’s century-plus history to reach 10-under in the second round, and the first to reach 13-under in any round.

Heck, he’s only the fifth player to reach 10-under at any stage of a U.S. Open. Woods (2000) and Jim Furyk (2003) went on to win, while both Gil Morgan (1992) and Barnes (2009) eventually faded.

Any potential rivals are far in arrears of the 22-year-old, who led after the first three rounds of the Masters two months ago before imploding with a final round 80. At this rate, McIlroy might be able to withstand even an extended hiccup.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” said Steve Stricker (2-over), the world’s highest-ranked American.” But there’s a long ways to go yet. I mean, just got to keep hanging in there and keep trying to shoot under par. He’s got to come back. The way he’s playing now, it doesn’t seem like he’ll do that, but you’ve just got to keep fighting and see what happens. But pretty incredible what he’s done so far.”

McIlroy followed a simple formula throughout his 24-hour shredding of the classic Congressional layout. Fairway, green, putt. Fairway, green, putt.

Over and over and over again.

McIlroy hit 20 of 28 fairways in the first two days. He was on 32 of 36 greens. And there are no obvious hints of any looming threats, even though McIlroy’s run of 35 straight holes without a bogey ended when he endured a detour into the water at No. 18 that culminated with a double bogey.

Yang shot in the 60s for the second straight day, carding a 69 on an afternoon during which a 42-minute rain delay almost perfectly bisected his round. The 2009 PGA Championship winner had four birdies and two bogeys in what would typically account for an ideal 18 holes at the U.S. Open.

At least one without McIlroy’s dominance. Yang was the only player to finish the day within eight shots of the lead. Five players — 2007 Masters champ Zach Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Robert Garrigus, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker — are at 2-under.

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