Inspired by watching Rickie Fowler on TV tear up rain-softened Erin Hills in Thursday’s morning wave, England’s Paul Casey went out and fired an opening round six-under 66 to trail the American by one. “It sets up really well for me, especially if I’m driving it like I did today”.
“I would have snapped your arm for a six under”, he said. The standing ovation on 18, it’s been really cool. Then I clawed all the way back and actually picked up one more to the good by the time we were finished.
“But I still think things are going to toughen up”.
He’s still here, too. McIlroy played in the same group with Day, who had a 7-over 79 on Thursday and followed with a 75 to finish at 10 over.
Some of the world’s top-ranked players and pre-tournament favorites look poised to miss the cut. More important, he was happy with how he played Friday and remained optimistic that he could carry that over to the weekend.
Casey and Xander Schauffele were the best of those teeing off later in the day and sit tied for second. “I struck the ball nicely, had some opportunities, rolled a few putts over the edge”.
Erin Hills took it on the chin once again.
The American favourite, who had struggled to a three-over-par 75 in the first round, carded three birdies and four bogeys.
A further bogey on the eighth saw him drop back to level par, leaving him off the pace.
Day’s meltdown began when not one, but two chips from the first cut of rough behind the fourth green hit the top of the hill, then trundled back down to nearly where Day was standing.
That victory was redemption after 2015 when, on the bumpy, much-criticized greens at Chambers Bay, he three-putted from 8 feet on the final hole to give away the victory, then the tie. And I felt the most calm I have in a major in a long time this week. He hit 12 of the 14 fairways in the second round, and one of the misses came on No. 15, when he was in desperation mode and tried to drive the green on the 357-yard hole. You can still make birdies out there.
“I was a little anxious going out there”, McIlroy said.
“There will probably be more nerves, more excitement, there is a lot of golf to be played here”. It’s hard to make a lot of birdies for me around here.
He made the turn at four-under 32 and ended the round with a flourish with a birdie at the par-five last. “So you’ve got to minimize those mistakes, minimize those bogies”. I’ve been very light on competitive rounds this year, and it’s just a matter of getting into a good round of golf now.