Rory McIlroy last started a major with two rounds in the 60s at the PGA Championship in 2014. Two days later he walked away with the title at Valhalla.
And he’s been searching for a fifth big one ever since.
This time around he has put together back-to-back 69s but this was a very different 2-under effort to his opening one.
The 29-year-old went into Thursday’s round with a devil-may-care attitude in the brown and bouncy conditions; drivers at 1 and 3 and just the one bogey.
This time around in wet and miserable conditions the chief stayed under wraps for chunks of the round and he ground out a beautiful effort in the grim circumstances.
He might want to recreate the teenage kicks that he had when he made his Open debut here in 2007 but he’s learnt a thing or two over the years.
“It wasn’t that bad but it was just damp enough and cold enough that the game plan that I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I just couldn’t do it,” he said.
“All the bunkers were in play. And then with it being wet, with the ball being wet and the clubface, the possibility of that getting wet, the spin rate goes right on the driver, and it could start to go either way. So a lot more irons off tees and a lot more conservative, but ended up being the same score. So I’m pretty pleased with that.”
A day, as they say, not to play yourself out of it – not that he won’t be reverting to the attacking route just as soon as the cold and the rain has disappeared.
While others might keep their battle scars under wraps McIlroy is only too happy to bare his and this year’s majors have left their marks.
“I’ve been a little bit too careful and tentative in these big tournaments. Last day at Augusta, even the first day at Shinnecock, I was holding on a little too much. Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve again because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.
“So this week one of my main thoughts is just to let it go. Just go out there and give it your all, and I’d rather feel by trying 100 per cent than by sort of holding back and maybe not giving myself the opportunity to do well.”
And, so far, he’s feeling and looking good in a week where the big question marks rested with his putter?
“I feel like there is a low round in me. I felt very comfortable out there. I played within myself. I haven’t taken on too much. I don’t want to say easy, but it’s felt comfortable.”
Apart from the closing four holes…
“It’s a slog. It’s sort of you make four pars there and you’re very happy. I’ve played those eight holes this week at one over and I feel pretty good about that.”