McIlroy roars to six-shot lead in record fashion

Rory McIlroy posted the lowest 36-hole score recorded at the U.S. Open to double his overnight lead to a...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland  at the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club April 10, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia. Picture: AFP.

Rory McIlroy posted the lowest 36-hole score recorded at the U.S. Open to double his overnight lead to a commanding six strokes in Friday's second round at Congressional Country Club.

The 22-year-old Northern Irishman followed up his opening 65 with five birdies and an eagle in a superb 66 early on Friday to reach the halfway stage of the 111th edition of the championship at 11-under-par 131.

His total shaved one stroke off the previous U.S. Open record of 132, set by Ricky Barnes at Bethpage two years ago, and was just one off the lowest halfway score at any major, the 130 set by Nick Faldo at the 1992 British Open at Muirfield.

McIlroy was poised to go even lower but took a double-bogey six at the last after hitting his approach into the water.

Yang Yong-eun of South Korea, the 2009 PGA champion, was a distant second at 137 after shooting 69. Five players were bunched at 140, nine shots back, when play was called due to failing light with 21 players still on the course.

"It's very near the best I can play," said world number seven McIlroy after taking charge on the tree-lined course some 10 miles (16 km) north of the White House.

"It feels quite simple. I'm hitting fairways. I'm hitting greens. I'm holing my fair share of putts."

Yang was not about to give up hope, noting that last year he had come from 10 shots back in the final round to win the Korea Open. "So anything can happen in golf," he said.

Bouncing back brilliantly after squandering a four-shot lead in the final round of the Masters, McIlroy showed the sublime skills that have him marked as a future number one despite holding only one title apiece on the U.S. and European tours.

McIlroy rolled in a 12-foot putt at the 17th to reach 13-under par, surpassing the tournament record low of 12-under set by Gil Morgan during the 1992 U.S. Open and matched by Tiger Woods when he won the 2000 championship at Pebble Beach.

Earlier he became the fastest to reach double digits under par at a U.S. Open when he holed out from the fairway at the par-four eighth, his 26th hole, for eagle to reach 10-under.

Even playing partner Phil Mickelson clapped in admiration at the shot by mop-topped McIlroy, who landed his approach 18 feet past the hole and watched it trickle down into the cup.

"He's striking it flawlessly and putted great," said five-time U.S. Open runner-up Mickleson, who shot 69 for 143.

Despite spoiling his flawless start to the championship with the double-bogey at 18, McIlroy vowed to stay aggressive.

"I have to keep it going over the next two days," he said. "I'm only halfway there."

Yang, who opened with a 68, took his score to five-under after birdies at the seventh and ninth, but could not improve on that after a 42-minute delay due to a threat of lightning that interrupted the afternoon wave.

Bunched at two-under 140 were Spain's Sergio Garcia (71) and Americans Matt Kuchar (68), 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson (69), Brandt Snedeker (70) and Robert Garrigus (70).

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, who also opened with 68, shot 74 for level-par 142.

Tied at 141 were South Korean Kim Kyung-tae, whose 72 included six birdies, three bogeys and two double-bogeys, Spain's Alvaro Quiros (71), Americans Davis Love III (71) and Heath Slocum (71), and Briton Robert Rock (71).

Rock, 34, continued to play solid golf despite arriving just hours before his tee time Thursday after having troubles arranging a visa to travel from England.

"I ran out of energy after nine holes," Rock said Friday.

McIlroy, showing no signs of nerves despite his Masters collapse two months ago, played free and easy as he put himself in position to win his first major after finishing in the top three in three of the last six.

"It's a big challenge but every time I get myself into the position it feels more natural," he said.

"But I know more than probably anyone else what can happen," added McIlroy, who flopped with an 80 in the final round at Augusta to tie for 15th place.

"So I've got to stay really focussed and try and finish this thing off."