Shane Lowry left Winged Foot tonight praying for bogeys from the rest of the US Open field still out on the course and they looked to have been answered as the New York course finally flexed its muscles and began to claim Rory McIlroy as one of its victims.
An opening 76 at one of this major’s toughest courses on Thursday spoke of missed opportunities for the Open champion when first-round leader Justin Thomas posted a five-under-par 65, the lowest score at Winged Foot ever recorded at a US Open there.
Yet as tournament custodians the USGA tweaked and toughened their set-up and the breeze began to get up north of New York City today, Lowry rose to the challenge and two birdies in the final three holes of second round gave a very respectable level-par 70 and hopes of making the halfway cut.
With the top-60 and ties progressing to today’s third round, Lowry was looking increasing comfortable on six over par as the cutline inched upwards from plus five, to six and was projected to land at seven over by last night’s close of play as Bryson DeChambeau’s morning 68 gave him the clubhouse lead after the completed first wave of the second round at three under.
“I sort of thought I needed to get to five (over) today to make the cut,” Lowry said. “We played the last, and I hit a great drive down the ninth and sort of had a look at the scoreboard and what the weather is doing, and I think six might have a chance.
“I'd be happy to make it go from where it was because I played lovely today. I actually played okay yesterday as well, but I bogeyed 18 and the first today, which is my ninth and 10th.
“To be honest, the wind was out of my sails then, and I thought that was it, done. It's so hard to make three birdies out there. It's getting really hard out there. It's quite windy, and the greens are firming up. Look, I'll have a long afternoon sitting back, watching TV, praying for guys to make bogeys. That's where I'm at now.”
Lowry’s wish for bogeys from his cutline rivals will not have extended to McIlroy but that is what he will have watched on his television last night as his fellow Irishman failed to build on an excellent first-round 67 and a birdie to open his second.
The four-time major champion had shot his lowest opening round in a major for six years, his 66s in 2014 leading to victory at both The Open and PGA Championships. Yet four bogeys and a killer double over his next six holes saw all the good work undone as McIlroy wilted in tougher conditions, slipping from four under to two over by the seventh hole.
He was not the only to suffer that fate. Thomas, one place above McIlroy in the world rankings at number three, started from the 10th and bogeyed the 13th, 14th and 16th while Patrick Reed, who had begun his second round a shot off the lead following an opening 66, saw two birdies cancelled out by three bogeys, also starting from the 10th as DeChambeau sat pretty at three under, his day’s work complete with just five other golfers under par.
There was little comfort for Irish amateur James Sugrue, particularly as his hopes of completing an US Open-Irish Open double next week could be in doubt after the Corkman revealed he has not received an invitation to his national Open.
The Mallow golfer bowed out of the second major of the year at Winged Foot having earned an exemption to the US Open with his momentous Amateur Championship victory at Portmarnock 15 months ago. That win in the oldest amateur ‘major’ also got him into last summer’s Open Championship while Sugrue also has an invitation to this year’s Masters in November.
Yet a place in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open field at Galgorm, Co Antrim, remained off the table last night as Sugrue looked back on his nine-over-par 79 which confirmed he would miss the cut. He had played alongside Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood, the European Tour veteran who suggested an Irish Open invitation should have been in the possession of the Irish international.
Asked if he would play at Galgorm next week, Sugrue replied: “Yeah, definitely. I've never played. Last year it was at Lahinch, which would be pretty close to my house and one of my favourite courses, and I couldn't play because, A, I think it was a Rolex event last year, and also because we had European Team championships, so I couldn't play.
“So, yeah, I would love to — it would be great to get a start in the Irish Open. That would be brilliant. I would definitely take up on that offer if it was possible.
“I thought that I had done enough to warrant an invitation. Obviously, it's not my decision. I don't know whose decision it is or who hands out invitations, but, yeah, I wouldn't dwell on it too much.
“If I'm in, I'm in. If I'm not, I'm not. It's not the end of the world... If the opportunity came up, I'd definitely play.”