It was a bizarre beginning to their round in the misty morning at The Renaissance, but Jon Rahm was impressed with the way Rory Mcilroy reacted to the abrdn Scottish Open intruder alert.
A spectator made his way on to the 10th tee where the banner group were starting their second round, and to the bemusement of all tried to tee up McIlroy’s cuddly lion head cover.
Once their unwelcome visitor had been removed, completely unfazed, McIlroy “hit probably one of the best drives of the tournament on that hole”, thought the watching World No 1.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 9, 2021
But McIlroy hit a poor second shot, and that was to be his kind of day. Rahm, meanwhile, blazed the course and seemed set for something even crazier than what had happened at the start.
The new US Open was seven-under after 10 holes, dialled in, super confident. The three holes he didn’t birdie were still all good chances, he thought.
He finally settled for a 65 – just as the usual crew were beginning to mutter 59-watch – for 11-under, but you felt that was the absolute worst he could do after that blazing start.
‘Those first 10 holes I played incredible’
“If anything it put a smile on our faces. It will be a pretty good story to tell in the future.” https://t.co/VvyTEw7Lto
— The Courier (@thecourieruk) July 9, 2021
Rahm was even surprised at himself in that early surge.
“Those first 10 holes I played incredible. The three pars I had were short putts that could have been made. They were clearly birdie chances.
“There were moments of luck too. If my second shot on 16 (his seventh) went two yards further than it did I would have had no shot to the pin.
“There were a couple of others like that. It was good golf combined with good luck.”
But as warm sunshine gave way to a good old East Coast haar, Rahm grew hesitant.
“I was playing some holes in a wind I had never played before,” he said. “I made some aggressive swings without thinking about it as much as I could have. Maybe I could have taken a step back, but I was playing so well.
“It means that if just clean up some little mistakes it could be even better.”
He got up and down of the right side bunker at his last, the short ninth. That was good enough for the lead. And rather than be tentative with a major coming next week, Rahm is just going for everything and riding the wave.
‘There’s plenty to work on’
“Ideally, we want the conditions this week to be exactly the same as next week,” he said. “I don’t mind it being a little more challenging. Certain things I did today I won’t get away with next week. That means there’s plenty to work on.”
Justin Thomas, as he always seems to do, played tidily for a 69 and an eight-under total, three behind. McIlroy, however, was always flirting with the cut and in the end it embraced him over the last couple of holes.
He was never in any kind of groove driving the ball, which is not the greatest sign when it’s such a precision requirement at Sandwich.
With two to play, he was on the probable cut mark at two-under. But he pulled his approach to the tough 8th green and couldn’t get up and down.
His tee shot at the short ninth gave his admirers some encouragement. But some metal clanging from the small food village beyond the green was like the tolling of the bell.He couldn’t convert the birdie putt from 15 feet.
It ensured an early trip to practise in Kent. And to try to find something there that might hope to end his major drought.