Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick enjoyed another magical moment in the US Open as Rory McIlroy’s fast finish kept him firmly in contention to end his major drought.
Fitzpatrick recorded the third hole-in-one of the week on the 115-yard 15th at Los Angeles Country Club, his tee shot spinning back into the hole just as those of Matthieu Pavon and Sam Burns had done in round one.
However, Fitzpatrick could not see where the ball had landed and was walking off the tee before the roar from the crowd sparked enthusiastic, if somewhat belated, celebrations.
The eagle briefly lifted Fitzpatrick into red figures, but he eventually slipped back to where he started the day on one over to trail early clubhouse leader Wyndham Clark by 10 shots.
Clark carded four birdies and a solitary bogey as he added a 67 to his opening 64 to reach nine under par, a shot ahead of four-time major winner McIlroy.
McIlroy looked set for a frustrating day as he covered the back nine in 37, but then birdied the first, third, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth to storm home in 30 – as far as it is possible to ‘storm’ in a round which took five hours, 39 minutes to complete.
McIlroy revealed he had been inspired to take a somewhat more cautious approach this week after watching the highlights of his 2014 Open victory at Royal Liverpool, which will host the year’s final major again next month.
“For whatever reason I went on to YouTube a few weeks ago and was looking back at Hoylake 2014 and I could not believe how many irons and three woods I was hitting off the tee and it set something off in my mind,” McIlroy said.
“You know how to do this, you know how to play smart. You don’t have to take driver – yes it’s a big weapon but I feel like I have more weapons in my arsenal than I did then so I may as well use them.”
Asked how much he wanted to win another major after a drought of almost nine years, McIlroy added: “I started thinking about winning this thing on Monday and no-one wants me to win another major more than I do.
“The desire is obviously there. I’ve been trying and I’ve come close over the past nine years and I keep coming back.
“I feel like I’ve showed a lot of resilience in my career, whether I get rewarded or punched in the gut I’ll always keep coming back.”
Dustin Johnson had recovered from a quadruple-bogey eight on the second to add a 70 to his opening 64 and remain six under par, a total matched by Australia’s Min Woo Lee thanks to a superb 65.
Overnight leaders Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele were among the later starters, Fowler starting brilliantly with three straight birdies to improve to 11 under.
Fowler and Schauffele had both shot 62 in the first round to record the lowest score in US Open history and equal the lowest in any men’s major, while the scoring average of 71.38 was another tournament record.
Tournament officials insisted they would not respond by making conditions “stupid hard”, although the par-three 11th was playing 297 yards and water had only been applied to “isolated spots on the greens for turf health”.
John Bodenhamer, chief championships officer of the USGA, told NBC: “[On Friday], as planned, we will play the golf course longer.
“We’re not going to force anything. We could do things that could make it stupid hard. We’re not going to do that.”