In a remarkable display of grit and determination, Rory McIlroy nearly fought his way back inside the cut line.
By Bailey Mosier
The one that got away.
In a remarkable display of grit and determination, Rory McIlroy fought his way back to almost make the cut at The 148th Open.
After opening with 8-over 79, McIlroy tied the low round of the championship on Friday with a near-flawless 6-under 65 that moved him to 2 over for the championship and one shot outside the cut line.
"I'm proud of how I stuck in there," McIlroy said while fighting back tears. "Played a really good, solid round of golf today. Wasn't quite enough, but the good thing about this game is there's always next week to try to dust myself off."
One shot less was all McIlroy needed. You know that quadruple-bogey 8 he made on No. 1 on Thursday? He made four at the first on Friday. How about we split the difference?
Remember the double bogey on the par-3 16th on Thursday? And more specifically that 18-inch putt he swiped and missed? Can we give him a mulligan there?
So many shots, so many what-ifs and could've-beens will be exchanged in pubs over pints throughout all of Northern Ireland and the world tonight. They'll also likely be marinating in the 12 inches between McIlroy's ears.
"When I look back on this week, what I'm really gonna rue is that finish yesterday - 5 over on the last three. You know, even take a couple bogeys in the last three and all of the sudden I'm in here for the weekend after what I did today."
And what McIlroy did on Friday was nothing short of extraordinary.
“I wish the ending for me would have been written a little bit differently. ” RORY MCILROY
He went bogey-free across his opening nine and made the turn in 2-under 34. He then rattled off three straight birdies across Nos. 10-12. His lone bogey on the day came at the par-3 13th, where his tee shot found the right greenside bunker and he failed to get up and down. He headed to the 14th tee at 4 over, and at that point, making the cut seemed too large an obstacle to overcome.
But then McIlroy birdied 14. Three over. He made a sand-saving par at 15. Still 3 over. From 230 yards at the par-3 16th he knocked it to 10 feet and rolled that in for birdie. Two over.
Standing on 17 tee, McIlroy needed one more birdie to make it to the weekend.
He reached for driver and sent it sailing out to the right, eventually nestling into an area that had been trampled down by fans and course marshals. From there, he had only 83 yards to the green, but he had a difficult angle and even more difficult decision to make - play to the center of the green or take an aggressive line directly at the pin.
McIlroy chose the most direct route, and flew the ball to a near-perfect spot, as it careened and traversed its way toward the hole, settling about 15 feet.
This was happening.
McIlroy couldn't get the putt to drop, but he still had one last hole for his one last hope of making the weekend in his home Open.
He hit a perfect iron off the 18th tee, leaving him 195 yards from the center of the fairway into the green. From there, he sent his ball left of the green. On-course microphones picked up his reaction: that he "tried to hold it. Take some yardage off it."
There could only be one more stroke.
From pin high left of the green, he hit a bump and run that looked like it had a chance. Ultimately, it nestled up to about 4 feet. Playing partners Paul Casey and Gary Woodland completed their rounds to get out of McIlroy's way. It wasn't for the win - or, sadly, even to make the cut - but Casey and Woodland gave way to McIlroy.
He made the 4-footer for par to shoot 6-under 65. The crowds cheered as if it were the winning putt Sunday night.
"Obviously people are going to look at my score yesterday, what I shot," McIlroy said. "And then going into today with the pressure off and shooting ... 14 shots better. But that wasn't it. I didn't play my best yesterday. I maybe didn't allow myself to play my best."
The 14-shot swing between Rounds 1 and 2 was the largest of McIlroy's PGA Tour career.
Despite all the hype and hometown vibes, McIlroy couldn't do what an entire nation was willing him to. But he'll dust himself off, get back in the ring and try again next time.
"I wish the ending for me would have been written a little bit differently, but it's been an awesome experience and I can't wait to come back here in a few years and play another Open."