McIlroy defends big US Open lead

Last Updated: Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 21:37

Maryland: The chase was on to reel in runaway leader Rory McIlroy in the third round of the US Open at Congressional Country Club on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Northern Irishman has blown the field apart in the first two days with rounds of 65 and 66 giving him the lowest first 36 holes in US Open history.

He stands at 11-under, five clear of second-placed Yang Yong-Eun of South Korea with Americans Robert Garrigus, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar as well as Spain`s Sergio Garcia a further three strokes adrift.

McIlroy, seemingly pre-destined for golfing glory since he first burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old amateur at the 2007 Carnoustie British Open, said he intends to stay the course by continuing to be "aggressive" and "cocky".

"I just try and have a bit of an attitude," he explained.

His play so far has delighted the big crowds at this course west of Washington, frequented by US presidents and lawmakers, and left many of his rivals open-mounthed in admiration, evoking memories of the young Tiger Woods.

But one big question marks hangs over the young buck - will he collapse again as he did in the second round of the last year`s British Open at St Andrews and at the final round of this years Masters at Augusta National.

On both occasions, he led the tournament only for his game to disintegrate with resulting 80s.
At his shoulder ready to pounce will be Yang, a tough and uncompromising 39-year-old who knows something about making comebacks.

Two years ago, he made golfing history by coming from two strokes behind to defeat Tiger Woods for the PGA Championship title at Hazeltine in Minnesota.

It was the first time in 15 attempts that Woods had failed to win a major title when leading or tied for the lead entering the final round.

In so doing, Yang became the first Asian man to win a major title, earning him instant celebrity throughout the continent.

He also produced a remarkable comeback, he points out, last year to win the Korea Open after starting the third round 10 strokes adrift of third round leader Noh Seung-Yul, who also made the cut here at even par.

"Anything can happen in golf, really," was his blunt assessment of the challange facing him at the weekend.

For those more distant from the lead, many appear already to have consigned themselves to playing for second place.

But as in life, in golf, hope springs eternal as world No.2 Lee Westwood intimated.

"I think that`s the attitude I`m going to go with over the next couple of days -- to try and get past whoever is in the second spot -- and we`ll see what Rory does," the Englishman said. "He`s had leads before."
With 72 players into the weekend and the final pairing of McIlroy and Yang not due off before 3:50 pm local time (1950 GMT) due to the end of the second round being held over until Saturday morning, organizers were facing a race against the clock to have the round completed by sunset.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, June 18, 2011 - 21:37

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