2022 US Open: Rory McIlroy chases the serenity of his youth as he eyes his first major title since 2014

BROOKLYN, MA – In some ways, Rory McIlroy has been chasing his 25-year-old self for the past eight years. He’s now 33 without any major slams since that summer, turning 25. He won twice that season to match the two he already had, but came up empty for the next 81 months.

On Saturday at the 2022 US Open, McIlroy will face three iterations of that former personality as he tries to start his career in the Grand Slam.

Colin Morikawa (25), Scotty Scheffler (25) and John Ram (27) have four majors, the same number as the oldest statesman in the sport. Morikawa is a one-two punch over McIlroy as Ram tied alongside Ulstermann and Schaeffler. They surrounded Rory.

McIlroy almost walked away from that US Open before it got really good. After shooting 67 and sitting in a single shot Thursday, he was in the driving seat by the time his second round began Friday. Rory started on a par, but disaster at No. 3 led to a 25-foot shot for a double bogey, burying him.

He danced 1 to 2 under and came back most of Friday, summoning visions of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, which he had until he didn’t, dancing in fans’ heads.

A bogey at No. 10 pushed McIlroy back to 1 under, and everything seemed to slide away. At that moment, he thought, “I just wanted to try shooting below level [on the day]“Three birds returning home without carts through the last eight holes meant he barely did.

McIlroy rushed back nine to shoot a 69, a solid follow up on his 67 that put him under 4 and one back of the lead shared by Morikawa and Joel Dahmin.

McIlroy appeared with a tight bruise all week, in part because of it He was carrying the weight of sports. But he clearly feels this is his best opportunity in several years to add to his main group. McIlroy is a hound when it comes to sniffing key moments, and nearly everyone he’s played in has taken advantage of himself.

It’s been a while, and he knows his earlier win of this event in 2011 wouldn’t help him win this US Open.

“I think I have to go out this week with the mentality that I will try to win for the first time again,” McIlroy said. “I play golf as well as I’ve played for a long time. I have a lot of experience. Yes, I’ve won major tournaments and other big events, but…just because I’ve done it, doesn’t mean I’ll be hitting better golf or that I’ll be hitting better golf.”

“I’m in a good place. I’m really happy with where my game is, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

The freedom McIlroy chased at the track can be found in the hearts of Morikawa, Scheffler, and, to some extent, Ram.

Will McIlroy recall what these men embody – what he is Once embodied better than anyone else – over the weekend?

Morikawa, Schaeffler and Ram have the youthful ability to let themselves run because they don’t yet know they can get tired. For years now, McIlroy has seemed unsure if he can trust himself enough to let himself go. Currently? Well, it looks like it’s ready.

“You want to face the best to try to bring out the best in you,” McIlroy said. And to see Colin, John, Scotty, and Sam [Burns] There, and everyone else, that’s what the major golf tournament is all about. This is what the competition is all about.

“I definitely don’t want it to be easy. I want the guys to go out and shoot 65, so I have to go shoot 64. This competition, that’s the essence of this game. I’m excited to be in that mix going on the weekend.”

When McIlroy feels himself and the moment, everything feels like liquid.

The other players hit, hit or knock. Rory streams. Swing him, sure, but also his whole soul. His presence fills the major leagues.

There was a 10-minute period on Friday that exemplified that as McIlroy finished his run with co-owners Xander Shaveli and Hideki Matsuyama. An analog leaderboard with the letters twisting Schauffele danced over McIlroy’s shoulder as he filled his 17th cup with his fifth and final bird of the day reaching 4 under.

McIlroy swayed into the 18th jersey as, during a long wait for the set in front of him, he was tinkering with golf balls handed to him by Shaveli. The charlatan who will soon go to the jugular.

When McIlroy gained momentum at the end of his tour, he moved around the property freely in the water.

All of this begs the question: Can you stream into a weekend at the US Open while you’re dragging so much of your past with you and keeping an eye on so many young stars who don’t have to manage that burden?

As the sun waned at this bustling old track, McIlroy was asked Friday if he could play freely in Brooklyn. An old look on the hero’s face four times.

“For the first time in a long time,” he said sharply.

The weekend will be expressive.

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