As Dinah Washington sang so deliciously: “What a difference a day makes.” On Wednesday Rory McIlroy told us he’s been playing ‘fun golf’, how he loves the course here at Shinnecock and how he has worked out his strategy from every single tee.
On Thursday he ended the day above only a handful of players after carding a 10-over par 80 – his worst opening round at a major, eclipsing the 2013 Open Championship by a single stroke.
After a nerve-settling par at the 10th, his first hole, McIlroy then dropped six shots in his next four holes. The roar that greeted his birdie at 15 had you believing it was the start of a comeback, but bogeys at 16 and 18 sandwiched the second par of his front-nine 42.
It didn’t get much better after the turn – only four shots, to be precise – with back-to-back birdies at 5 and 6 cancelled out by a double at the 1st and bogeys at 2, 7 and 9.
It tied McIlroy’s highest ever round in a major championship. You might remember his 80s in the second round of the 2010 Open Championship – a day after matching the then major record of 63 – and a year later at The Masters having led the tournament with nine of the 72 holes left to play.
We’ll never know what McIlroy thought of his latest 80 – he exited stage left as soon as his final putt dropped – which perhaps tells us more than we’ll ever need to know.
And fun or not, perhaps playing 18 out of 19 days in the run-up to the most challenging major is a tad too much.
McIlroy will tee off at 6.47pm your time on Friday knowing he needs to shoot something in the mid-60s if he wants to avoid missing the cut at a US Open for the third straight year.
Scott and bothered
One of the players below is England’s Scott Gregory, who has zero chance of making the weekend after failing to break 90.
Gregory’s 22-over par is the first round of 90+ at a US Open since Felix Casas shot 92 down the road Bethpage in 2002.
Don’t feel too bad though, Scott, since World War II there have been 43 scores of 90 or higher at the US Open, the highest of which was John Battini’s 96 in 1955.
And if it makes you feel even better, the all-time record high at a US Open was a whopping 157 by JD Tucker at the Myopia Hunt Club in 1898. Tucker then went 57 shots better with his second round before pulling out. (I love that he decided enough was enough after the second round rather than the first…)
And because I’ve just seen it while searching for some stats on this front, the worst score on a single hole in a US Open is 19. Ray Ainsley found a creek on the 16th hole at Cherry Hills in the 1938 edition and, instead of taking a drop, decided to spend a few minutes trying to hoik it out.
And props to Gregory, who did find time to stop and chat to the press.
Bethpage Black and blue
Speaking of getting beaten up by golf courses, my colleague Steve Carroll and I nipped for 18 round Bethpage Black on Thursday evening.
The 2002 and 2009 US Open venue will also host next year’s PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup in 2024. And it’s hard.
You can read all about our adventures here…
So this is happening. pic.twitter.com/GIwK6yazQs
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) June 13, 2018
Those are golf balls in Steve’s pockets. He’s not happy to see you.
The backstopping debate has raged on Twitter this past week, with Jimmy Walker the PGA Tour player most vocal about it.
So this was a welcome moment at the 2nd hole…
Funny moment on 2 green as Justin rose hits it close from bunker. Jimmy walker has same shot but says “you better mark that” with a smile. Louis Oosthuizen loses it with laughter. #backstopping
— Ben Everill (@BEverillPGATOUR) June 14, 2018
Now can we all just be friends again?
Golf fans are a funny lot – as we’ve been finding out here at Shinnecock.
On a little wander up around the clubhouse and practice area, I witnessed one ask a friend who the golfer stood in front of him was. “Alex Noren,” his friend replied. The first gentleman then shouted: “Good luck Alex, I love your game!”
Don’t worry, I gave him a look that said, “You didn’t know his name five seconds ago.”
Earlier, I was also stood by the 7th tee for a bit this morning when the group of Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar and Matthew Fitzpatrick went through.
“Come on Kuch!” screamed one lady. “You got this Bryson!” Poor Fitzy.
While my gear-nerd and all-round well-dressed colleague James Savage has been cooing about his favourite outfits at the US Open, like he’s trying to get a gig writing for the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, I can’t agree with him on a couple.
That Jordan Spieth shirt today was horrendous, and I’m yet to be sold on JT’s trousers.
And I’m sure Ryan Evans is a lovely bloke but I just can’t get on board with the bucket hat.
Pro tip: If you have to physically tie a piece of clothing to your body to stop it blowing away in the wind, you should probably try something else.
Did Ryan Evans lose a bet? pic.twitter.com/0nRECWSStc
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) June 14, 2018
Traffic update: It took two hours to get to Shinnecock Hills from our hotel today.
Tea update: Still no tea, but a lovely lady in the media centre said she’d get me some for Friday. If she pulls it off, it’ll be bigger than Tiger winning this damn thing.
Until then, enjoy it.
More from the US Open