Rory McIlroy struggles again after a slow start to stay on the hunt for the US Open in Brookline

So much so that Rory McIlroy can’t grind. So much for the Northern Irish that it fades when things get tough.

On Friday, at the 122nd U.S. Open, he was caught up in a battle with The Country Club, as well as a dizzying mix of the best players in the world, and held on to the task powerfully.

McIlroy is four below, one behind Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen, and from the miserable and threatening place of the tournament he had found himself in the third, this 69 was an impressive feat.

McIlroy, 33, hit his approach to par four in the tall pistachio to the right of a green-side bunker and with two blows managed to move it about three yards.

He could barely see his ball and was playing his fifth shot. A triple bogey set was surely the most I could expect. But McIlroy cut it to 25 feet and rolled the putt to limit the damage to a double bogey six.

“That was the best double bogey I’ve ever done,” he said.

There were none of the tantrums he had shown in his first 67, just a steely look of intent in his mission to win his fifth major after an eight-year gap.

McIlroy was lucky in the sense that he was out in the easiest conditions of the afternoon, when the gusts dropped markedly. Except his ball hit, especially off the tee, wasn’t the best anywhere.

It is a widely held view that when the fire fails it goes out in the stomach. Not this time, denying bogeys the sixth and 10 with birds the fifth, eighth, 12, 14 and 17. And with Morikawa, the two-time winner shooting a 66, McIlroy showed resilience when he simply had to.

“I wasn’t scared, I knew there were holes that would give me opportunities,” he said. “I think I have to come out with the mindset that I’m trying to win my first major. I’m playing my best golf in a long time.”

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