BETHESDA, Md. (AP) - The double bogey to close the day would have left the average player in a snit.
Rory McIlroy? He's anything but average, and he couldn't help but smile. Not even the mistakes he made could turn this U.S. Open into a fair fight.
For 17 holes Friday, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland systematically dissected the monstrous layout at Congressional and put the same kind of hurt on a U.S. Open record book that doesn't change easily.
McIlroy made a 6 to finish the day but by then, the damage was done. He shot 5-under-par 66 to head into the weekend at 11-under 131, setting the record for the best 36-hole score in the 111-year history of the tournament.
"I'm very happy with my position," McIlroy said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more on the first tee this morning."
His 36-hole score was one shot better than Ricky Barnes at Bethpage in 2009 and the gap would've been bigger had McIlroy not hooked his drive on 18 into the trees and knocked the recovery shot into the water left of the green. He made double-bogey there – a bummer of a way to close a round that had been virtually error free until then.
So good, in fact, that after back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17, McIlroy did something nobody had ever done. He reached 13-under par, the lowest score at any point in the history of the
tournament, breaking a record held by Tiger Woods and Gil Morgan.
Despite the late hiccup, McIlroy still held an eight-shot lead over Y.E. Yang, who teed off at about the same time McIlroy finished and made pars on his first five holes.
Zach Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Robert Garrigus and Brandt Snedeker finished the day at 2 under. With about half the players still on the course, nobody else was making a run.
"If he keeps playing the way he's playing, we're all playing for second place," Snedeker said.
McIlroy became the fastest player to reach double digits under par at the U.S. Open (26 holes). And he had a good chance of holding the biggest lead at the halfway point of the tournament, a record that belongs to Woods, who led by six after 36 holes of his indelible performance at Pebble Beach in 2000.
Coming off a final-round collapse at the Masters two months ago, McIlroy is still search of his first major. Now, it's just a matter of which way he'll go. Of the four previous players to reach 11-under par or better at the U.S. Open, two have won easily (Woods and Jim Furyk in 2003) and two have melted down (Morgan in 1992 and Barnes in 2009).
McIlroy tries to “have a bit of an attitude” on the course
"I said I needed to be a little more cocky, a little more arrogant on the golf course, and think a little bit more about myself, which I've tried to incorporate a little bit, just on the golf course," McIlroy said. "I just try and have a bit of an attitude, you know?"
McIlroy holed out from the eighth fairway for an eagle that got him to 10 under. He made five birdies, 11 pars and still technically doesn't have a bogey, even though he did make the double on 18. He hit 15 more greens in regulation to bring his total to 32 of 36 for the tournament. Before No. 18, even when he got in trouble, he turned out OK. After hitting his approach into the bunker on No. 11, he saved par with a 10-foot putt.
But the signature shot from this day was the eagle on 8. Hitting a short approach, he bounced the ball at the back of the green, it hit twice then spun and rolled slowly before dropping into the cup. McIlroy raised both hands in the air. Phil Mickelson, playing in the same threesome, applauded.
For the crowds, the U.S. Open brought anticipation and excitement.
Joseph Novack made the drive from West Virginia Friday morning to see the guys on the green for Round 2.
“I just want to see all the all the new young guys out here,” he said.
While he will get a chance to see the action on the course, he won't get any pictures of the pros. Cell phones, cameras and food or drink aren’t allowed.
Larry McShane was also forced to make the walk back to return items to his car.
“They don't even want you getting autographs, they told me I couldn't bring the pen, and my cell phone,” he said.
One thing spectators didn't have to worry about was parking.
Free parking and shuttle buses are set up at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, making trips to the tournament for out-of-towners like Novack easy.
Additional parking is also set up at crown farms off Eye 370. The gates will be open through 7 each day. The tournament runs through Sunday.
Shuttle passes for service between the U.S. Open Championship and Metrorail's Grosvenor-Strathmore Station on the Red Line are sold out for the remainder of the tournament. Spectators who do not have passes should make alternate plans, which could include using bus service, taxi/limo service, or the USGA's passenger drop-off area at the Norwood School.
The Norwood School can only be accessed off of Bradley Blvd. The passenger, taxi or limousine drop-off is NOT accessible via River Road. Norwood School is also the designated site for bicycle parking.