Brooks Koepka has no issue with Rory McIlroy's criticism of his decision to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series, a move he said was taken to allow more flexibility over his schedule.

Former world number one Koepka had previously stated his allegiance to the PGA Tour and commented in February that "somebody will sell out and go for it".

Koepka was not involved in the first event at Centurion Club earlier this month and was critical of reporters for casting a "black cloud" over the U.S. Open when players were probed about the controversial Saudi-backed series, which has been accused of sportswashing.

However, the four-time major winner has now signed up for the breakaway series and will tee off in Portland this week, joining the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson in doing so.

When asked about Koepka's decision last week, McIlroy said: "Am I surprised? Yes, because of what he [Koepka] said previously. That's why I'm surprised at a lot of these guys, because they say one thing and then they do another. It's pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing."

Asked about McIlroy's comments, Koepka replied: "Look, I've got respect for Rory as a player. He's good. He's phenomenal. 

"I'll be honest with you, I didn't see it. I didn't hear about it until basically like a day ago. So, look, he's entitled to his opinion. He can think whatever he wants. He's going to do what's best for him and his family, I'm going to do what's best for me and my family, and I can't hate on anybody for that."

Koepka insists he had not made a decision until after the U.S. Open. Asked what had changed since, he said: "Just my opinion, man. My opinion changed. That was it. 

"You guys will never believe me, but we didn't have the conversation 'til everything was done at the U.S. Open and figured it out and just said I was going to go one way or another. Here I am."

Koepka has slid down to world number 19 after contending with a series of injuries to his hip, knee and wrist.

The 32-year-old believes signing up to the LIV series will allow him more time to recover physically.

"What I've had to go through the last two years on my knees, the pain, the rehab, all this stuff, you realise, you know, I need a little bit more time off," Koepka said. 

"I'll be the first one to say it, it's not been an easy last couple of years, and I think having a little more breaks, a little more time at home to make sure I'm 100 per cent before I go play in an event and don't feel like I'm forced to play right away [is good]."

Asked about accusations of sportswashing levelled against the series, Koepka replied: "You know, we've heard it. I think everybody has. It's been brought up.

"But, look, like we said, our only job is to go play golf, and that's all we're trying to do. We're trying to grow the game, do all this other stuff. And we're trying the best we can."

While several players have resigned their PGA Tour membership, including fellow defector Patrick Reed, Koepka has not done so as yet.

It remains to be seen long term what decisions will be taken by the major championships over the participation of players who have jumped ship to LIV Golf.

Koepka insists he is comfortable with whatever outcome occurs.

"You play anywhere around the world, you'll be just fine. You'll get into them. I made a decision. I'm happy with it, and whatever comes of it, I'll live with it," he said.

The PGA Tour has announced schedule changes and prize money increases in order to stem the flow of big-name players joining the rival LIV Golf International Series.

Brooks Koepka became the ninth major champion to sign up to the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed league, rocking the PGA Tour on Wednesday.

The American joined Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Bryson DeChambeau in the breakaway competition.

Defecting players were indefinitely suspended from PGA Tour events, but were allowed to play at last week's U.S. Open and participate in next month's 150th Open at St Andrews.

The PGA had been rumoured to be mulling over a switch to a calendar-year schedule, alongside increased purses and the creation of new no-cut international events featuring the Tour's top 50 players.

Commissioner Jay Monahan confirmed those alterations at a press conference ahead of the Travelers Championship, stressing the PGA's need to innovate to remain golf's leading competition.

"I want to talk about where the PGA Tour is headed. We don't expect to overcome this current challenge by relying on our legacy and track record alone," he said.

"We've been on a path for a number of years to strengthen and evolve our product for the benefit of our fans and players alike, those plans are obviously accelerated in light of the current environment.

"We have some exciting developments coming out of yesterday's policy board meeting that will further secure our status as the pre-eminent golf tour in the world.

"This includes moving forward with our future product model for the 2022-23 season and beyond, a return to a calendar-year schedule beginning in 2024, with the FedEx Cup contested from January to August, culminating with the FedEx Cup play-offs and followed by the fall events.

"[The Tour will also add] revised field sizes for the FedEx Cup play-offs in 2023 and beyond, [and] the creation of a series of up to three international events, to be played after the conclusion of the fall schedule, which will include the top 50 players from the FedEx Cup points list.

"Alongside these changes, the policy board also amended the resource allocation plan, to increase purse sizes at eight events during the 2022-23 season, with an average purse at $20million. 

"There is more work to be done, and details to confirm, but implementing substantial changes to our schedule gives us the best opportunity to not only drive earnings to our players, but also improve our product and create a platform for continued growth in the future."

Rory McIlroy, a vocal opponent of LIV Golf, had earlier stated he supported the changes, saying to Sky Sports: "I think having the FedExCup season go to a calendar year, that would be a pretty good idea.

"So then it gives guys the opportunity to play if they want to play in the fall, or if they don't want to play in the fall they don't have to, they're not forced to.

"You're trying to give playing opportunities and create prize funds for the lower half of the membership, but also trying to accommodate what the upper half of the membership want as well with an off-season, time away from the FedExCup schedule. So it's a balance."

Monahan added the PGA could not wish to compete financially with the rival tour, headed by two-time major champion Greg Norman, which he described as "irrational".

"I am not naive," Monahan said. "If this is an arms race and if the only weapons are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can't compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.

"We welcome good healthy competition, the LIV series is not that. It's an irrational threat, one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game. 

"Currently no one organisation owns or dominates the game of golf, instead the various entities work together to meet our own respective priorities but with the best interests of the game at heart.

"When someone attempts to buy the sport and dismantle the institutions that are intrinsically invested in growth and focus only on a personal priority, that partnership evaporates. 

"Instead we end up with one person, one entity, using endless amounts of money to direct employees towards their personal goals, which may or may not change tomorrow or the next day.

"I doubt that's the vision any of us have for the game."

Rory McIlroy labelled breakaway players joining the LIV Golf International Series as "duplicitous" before Brooks Koepka became the latest high-profile name to leave the PGA Tour.

McIlroy has been a critic of LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi-backed competition, with opponents accusing the breakaway league of sportswashing.

However, that has not stopped the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia leaving the PGA Tour, who have indefinitely banned the defectors from returning.

Koepka was confirmed on Wednesday as the next big name to join and is the ninth major winner to sign for LIV Golf, with world number 20 Abraham Ancer also being linked with the tournament.

Four-time major winner Koepka refused to discuss LIV Golf at last week's U.S. Open, where he said he was "tired of conversations" and debates were "throwing a black cloud" over the third major of 2022.

Koepka subsequently withdrew from the Travelers Championship, which is the next PGA Tour event on Thursday, and will feature at the second LIV Golf event in Portland.

That has led to more debate around the breakaway league, and McIlroy feels his fellow golfers are not staying true to their word.

"Am I surprised?" McIlroy told reporters in Connecticut before Koepka's switch was confirmed. "Yes, because of what he said previously.

"I think that's why I'm surprised at a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then they do another, and I don't understand that and I don't know if that's for legal reasons or if they can't – I have no idea.

"But it's pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing…the whole way through, in public and private, all of it."

McIlroy has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes over the last month, triumphing at the Canadian Open before finishing in a tie for fifth at the U.S. Open.

The 33-year-old admitted that tiredness is becoming a factor as he prepares for his fourth tournament in as many weeks, but remains excited to compete at the Travelers Championship.

"I got a night in my own bed down in Florida on Monday night, which was really nice," he added.

"But, yes, I came back up here yesterday and played the pro-am today and going to get an early night tonight. I've got an early start again tomorrow.

"But excited to get going and especially continuing the run of form I'm on. I'm playing some really good golf and I want to continue trying to do that.

"I think the three weeks that I've played, like Memorial's a very demanding golf course. Canada wasn't so demanding but when you get yourself in contention and you play a weekend like that, then that takes quite a lot out of you. And then you follow that up with a US Open. So I think it's a combination of everything.

"Mentally I'm totally fine, but it will be nice to sort of rest up this afternoon and get another good night's sleep and get ready to play tomorrow.

"But four weeks in a row is pretty rare for me these days. I haven't played four in a row in a while and you start to remember why!"

Matt Fitzpatrick called it a dream come true to win his first major after shooting 68 in Sunday's final round to finish on six under, winning the U.S. Open by one stroke from Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris.

The win is the 27-year-old Englishman's first on the PGA Tour, making him the first player to collect his debut victory in a major since Danny Willett won the 2016 Masters.

It also comes at the same course – The Country Club at Brookline – where Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur.

Speaking to the media after his stunning triumph, he said this was the culmination of a lifetime of work.

"No words, it’s what you grow up dreaming of," he said. "It’s a day I’ve worked so hard for, for such a long time.

"There was a big monkey on my back trying to win over here, all they ever talked about was that, and to do it as a major for my first win – there’s nothing better."

Fitzpatrick gave himself every chance on Sunday by hitting 17-of-18 greens in regulation, and then produced one of the shots of his life on the 18th hole to work his way out of a bunker for the win.

"I’ve got to give myself credit, I stayed patient today," he said. "I said to [caddie] Billy [Foster] that if I could just hit 18 greens today I’d like to think I’d got a good chance – and I near as damn did it. 

"I got a couple of nice breaks there on 15, took advantage of it and that’s what it took in the end.

"Me and Billy spent quite a while talking about the 18th tee shot, undecided. I hit a three-wood today, into the bunker and if there was one shot that I’ve struggled with that I just do not want, it’s a fairway bunker shot. 

"I don’t know, ability just took over and it’s one of the best shots I’ve hit, of all time. When I saw it leave the sand, I couldn’t have been happier."

Back in 2013 when he won the U.S. Amateur, Fitzpatrick stayed with a host family, and he decided to stay with the same family – the Fultons – this time around.

"It’s meant the world, I’ve won twice now here," he said. "I’m trying to get every Tour event around here now and stay at the Fulton’s. 

"So to have them, or to stay with them this week, has made it so much more relaxing, less pressure – I’ve loved every minute."

He finished his trophy presentation ceremony with a message for Jack Nicklaus.

"I don’t know if Jack’s listening to this, but he gave me a bit of abuse at the start of the year," he said.

"I won the member’s member at his club – the Bears Club – and he said ‘finally, congratulations on winning in the States’. 

"So I can go back to him and say 'Jack, I’ve won a second time this year'."

Matt Fitzpatrick claimed his first-ever major win as he edged out Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler to triumph at the U.S. Open at The Country Club on Sunday.

Englishman Fitzpatrick, who won the U.S Amateur at the same course in 2013, carded a two-under par 68 in his final round at The Country Club in Massachusetts to edge out playing partner Zalatoris and Scheffler by one shot, finishing on six under for the tournament. 

Zalatoris, who lost the US PGA Championship in a play-off to Justin Thomas last month, bogeyed the second and third holes but roared back with three birdies before the turn, while Fitzpatrick was two under through his first nine holes.

The Englishman opened his back nine with back-to-back bogeys, which paved the way for Zalatoris to open up a two-shot lead at the summit of the leaderboard after the 11th hole.

They were level pegging again after the 13th, though, largely in part to a stunning long birdie putt from Fitzpatrick.

And 27-year-old Fitzpatrick moved two clear on the 15th thanks to a birdie after Zalatoris could only manage a bogey.

The lead was reduced to one going into the final hole, and despite a poor tee shot that saw him find the bunker, Fitzpatrick held his nerve, playing a sublime shot out of the sand to set him up with two putts to seal his maiden major success.

And that came when, after Fitzpatrick sunk his putt for par, Zalatoris edged his effort just wide.

Zalatoris shared second with world number one Scheffler, while Hideki Matsuyama produced the round of the week - the 30-year-old from Japan hitting a bogey-free 65 to conclude his tournament on three under for a fourth-placed finish.

Collin Morikawa was left to rue a dismal 77 on Saturday, the two-time major champion bouncing back in style from that with a four under par 66 to finish tied fifth with Rory McIlroy, who had an up and down Sunday, and Adam Hadwin on two under for the tournament.

Further down the leaderboard, US PGA Championship winner Thomas carded a four over par 74 to finish the tournament on seven over par – the same as three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.

Hideki Matsuyama will "keep on grinding" after carding the lowest score in the U.S. Open on Sunday.

Posting a 65, Matsuyama was five under on the final round and finished the tournament three under overall.

Matsuyama headed into the clubhouse in fourth place, though his efforts were not enough to put him in contention for success, barring a major slip up from the leaders.

The 2021 Masters champion conceded he did not feel he was at his best over the course of the tournament, though it gives him confidence moving forward and highlighted his putting as a strength.

"To be honest, I don't feel like this is my 100 per cent performance, but it does give me a lot of boost on my confidence," Matsuyama said.

"So, I'll try my best, try to connect this momentum to my next game, and I'll be prepared for it.

"Definitely my putting was helping my game a lot. Rolling really good putts. 

"My shots were pretty decent too. I was able to target most of the greens, so I think that really helped me."

Collin Morikawa, the reigning champion of The Open, will head to St Andrews having learned from his experience at the U.S. Open.

Morikawa was among the favourites to clinch the season's third major at The Country Club this weekend, and was on course to challenge until carding a dismal 77 on Saturday.

He hit back with an impressive 65 on Sunday, though, putting him T5 at the time he went back into the clubhouse - only three off the lead.

While Morikawa required a huge slip up from all of the leaders to get him in contention for glory at Brookline, he was able to reflect on learning what he hopes will be a valuable lesson ahead of defending his Open title next month at St Andrews.

"I don't know if I found something. I think it just taught me that just go play golf," Morikawa told reporters.

"This year has been so much focused on trying to hit that cut and trying to be so perfect, and that's who I am, but just go out and play.

"Things are going to be tough. The ball is not going to go exactly where you want, but just figure it out.

"After this week it was a huge boost heading into the last little stretch of golf.

"I'm very excited. I think I'm going to have to really do a good job about prioritising every single day and splitting up what I need to focus on, whether it's the golf or whether I need to enjoy just being there at St. Andrews, being back as a defending champion.

"I think last year I was able to settle in a little quicker because I played the Scottish [Open] and you just kind of showed up. Time zones, everything, it was just go and play golf.

"This year I think there's going to be a couple more distractions just with being the defending champion and just knowing that it's such a golf-centred town, but that doesn't mean by Tuesday midday all I'll be focusing on is golf."

Morikawa went round in 69 on Thursday and built on that impressive start with a 66 in his second round in Massachusetts, yet it all fell apart on Saturday.

"I didn't see it coming. I think when you are playing well, you'll make doubles, right, and doubles aren't acceptable, just like three-putts," added Morikawa, who already has two major titles under his belt by the age of 25.

"Yesterday with two doubles, you just can't play with that. I know you can kind of rebound from that, and I think Scottie [Scheffler] kind of bounced back and still kept himself around there, but I just... the game and the approach shots and just off the tee, I was playing out of the rough yesterday, which is just impossible at a U.S. Open to play well and to hold and maintain pars.

"So I didn't think it was coming. I hope many seven-overs aren't coming in the future, but it just kind of made me refocus and kind of just get back into things, right, and just really start from the tee, get it in the fairway, and then worry about it from there."

Matt Fitzpatrick heads into the final round of the U.S. Open with a share of the lead and the confidence of a previous win in Brookline.

The 27-year-old, who recorded the best major result of his career last time out with a tie for fifth at the US PGA Championship, shot a 68 on Saturday to join Will Zalatoris on four under for the tournament.

Saturday's third round was a tricky one for most of the rest of the field, with only nine players now under par.

But Fitzpatrick knows exactly how to succeed at this course, having won the U.S. Amateur in Massachusetts in 2013.

He could now follow in the footsteps of the great Jack Nicklaus, who repeated his U.S. Amateur triumph at Pebble Beach in 1961 by winning the U.S. Open at the same course 11 years later.

"I certainly think it gives me an edge over the others," Fitzpatrick said, looking forward to Sunday's action. "I genuinely do believe that.

"It's a real, obviously positive moment in my career. It kind of kick-started me.

"To come back here and play so well again, it just gives me growing confidence round by round."

But Fitzpatrick knows he will not have it easy, with his experience of a tough final day at the US PGA – which he entered in second place – fresh in his mind.

"I think up until Southern Hills, I didn't really appreciate how hard it is actually to win a major," he said. "I've not challenged really up until then.

"I think, myself included, people on the outside maybe think it's easier than it is.

"You just have to look at Tiger [Woods]. He knocked off so many in such a quick span. That's why I think people think, 'oh, it's a piece of cake; it's like a regular Tour event'. But it's not.

"It brings a lot more to the mental aspect of the game than other regular events, and for me, I think it's been a big change from US PGA to come here to a golf course I know so well, and it's given me extra confidence."

Fitzpatrick might not get a better chance to land his first major win, and he accepts: "Would my career be incomplete if I didn't have one? Sure, yeah.

"I would be disappointed if I didn't, yeah. I genuinely would be disappointed if I didn't.

"I feel like certainly now these last two majors, I feel so much more comfortable out here. My game has changed for the better. I've given myself more chances.

"I definitely feel like I have much more of a chance now to win a major than I ever have done in my career, obviously."

Justin Thomas says he is relishing the tough U.S. Open conditions despite seeing his chances of winning back-to-back majors surely disappear.

The 29-year-old, who won the US PGA Championship last month, carded a third-round 72 on Saturday to leave him on three over par going into the final day.

Thomas had no complaints over the set-up at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, where the wind made life difficult for the best players in the world once again.

"I played really, really well," he told a media conference. "It was very difficult out there. I just didn't get anything out of it.

"I fought back and stayed very patient for having some things not go my way. It's a bummer to finish with a bogey on 18, but I really played solid today.

"I hit it really well. I drove it well. Hit my irons really well. Just had a hard time saving pars when I missed greens, but yeah, tee to green I played beautifully.

"I said to Bones [his caddie Jim Mackay] walking up 18, this is how a U.S. Open should be. It's very difficult. Par is great score on a lot of holes. Bogeys aren't going to kill you.

"We don't do this very often, and I think it's very, very fitting and totally acceptable to have this kind of test and this difficult setup for a U.S. Open, and it's strictly because of conditions.

"The greens are getting firm. It's windy, and it should be tough."

Will Zalatoris moved into the lead on four under with with a hugely impressive three-under 67 and he Matthew Fitzpatrick joined him when he birdied the 15th.

Scottie Scheffler had been two shots clear before a double bogey at 11, followed by another three dropped shots in as many holes.

 

Phil Mickelson tried to focus on the positives after a brutal week at the U.S. Open, as he finished round two 11 over par for the tournament.

This remains the only major Mickelson has never won after he missed the cut by eight strokes.

All eyes were on the 52-year-old, who has finished second at the U.S. Open on six occasions, following his return to action in the first LIV Golf Invitational.

Mickelson joined the controversial breakaway series for the opening tournament in London last week, having been out of the spotlight for a period.

Comments Mickelson made about his commitment to the Saudi-backed league prompted outrage and led to him taking time away from the sport.

This was therefore his first tournament back in the United States since the Farmers Insurance Open in January – another event at which he missed the cut.

But Mickelson at least showed some improvement on Friday with a three-over 73, having carded a dismal 78 in the first round.

"It was okay. I had a good day," he said. "I enjoyed the week. I wish I had played better."

Despite his move to LIV Golf, Mickelson appeared to remain popular with the fans in Brookline, and he added: "The fans here have always been terrific.

"They really support all sports, and I love it when we bring golf here because they create a really special atmosphere.

"I missed competing, but I also enjoyed some time away."

Joel Dahmen is a surprise co-leader with Collin Morikawa after 36 holes of the U.S. Open at The Country Club – and he was contemplating skipping the qualifier.

Dahmen, 34, is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in both rounds, finishing the first round one off the lead after a 67, before backing it up with a 68 on Friday. Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise both posted a pair of 68s, and are one stroke off the lead in a tie for third.

In his second trip around the course, Dahmen had a strong front nine, birdieing the first hole as well as the fifth and eighth, with a bogey on the second. He started the back nine poorly, with a bogey on 10, but followed it with seven pars and a long birdie putt.

Speaking to the media after his round, he confirmed the story that he almost pulled out of the qualifier where he punched his ticket.

"There was a lot of discussion leading up to it, yeah, the prior week," he said. "I told my wife I wasn't going to do it.

"Then I was tired at Memorial and said I wasn't going to do it. I was never really going to do it until I… sort of played better at Memorial and the game was there.

"My coach, Rob Rashell, came out and things started to trend in the right direction. And then [my caddie] Geno [Bonnalie], I felt bad because he didn't switch his flight when he could have got home Sunday night, so at that point I had to stick it out."

Clearly, he is thrilled with his decision.

"I'm incredibly happy now for sure," he said. "I mean, sometimes you take for granted what you have out here a little bit. 

"I think this is my eighth or ninth major championship, and you think not long ago I would have done a lot of things to play in one, and to think that I have an opportunity just to skip one, kind of looking back, even this whole week, you don't appreciate really.

"I've played 130-odd events. I've been six years out here. It's easy to get in a lull and be like, you just go home for two weeks and hang out and everything is all hunky-dory, but when you get here, everything changes as soon as you get on property. 

"It's a USGA event. It's huge. People everywhere. So, yeah, that changes your mind pretty quickly."

After finding some form recently, Dahmen said he is starting to encounter fans who know who he is – something he does not believe will ever feel normal.

"It is unbelievable to me how many people know my name or yell for me out there," he said. "It's weird. 

"I'm getting recognized a little bit more off the golf course – my wife will look at me, like, what is happening? 

"It's not normal. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it, but it comes with good golf."

Joel Dahmen is a surprise co-leader with Rory McIlroy after 36 holes of the U.S. Open at The Country Club – and he was contemplating skipping the qualifier.

Dahmen, 34, is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in both rounds, finishing the first round one off the lead after a 67, before backing it up with a 68 on Friday. Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise both posted a pair of 68s, and are one stroke off the lead in a tie for third.

In his second trip around the course, Dahmen had a strong front nine, birdieing the first hole as well as the fifth and eighth, with a bogey on the second. He started the back nine poorly, with a bogey on 10, but followed it with seven pars and a long birdie putt.

Speaking to the media after his round, he confirmed the story that he almost pulled out of the qualifier where he punched his ticket.

"There was a lot of discussion leading up to it, yeah, the prior week," he said. "I told my wife I wasn't going to do it.

"Then I was tired at Memorial and said I wasn't going to do it. I was never really going to do it until I… sort of played better at Memorial and the game was there.

"My coach, Rob Rashell, came out and things started to trend in the right direction. And then [my caddie] Geno [Bonnalie], I felt bad because he didn't switch his flight when he could have got home Sunday night, so at that point I had to stick it out."

Clearly, he is thrilled with his decision.

"I'm incredibly happy now for sure," he said. "I mean, sometimes you take for granted what you have out here a little bit. 

"I think this is my eighth or ninth major championship, and you think not long ago I would have done a lot of things to play in one, and to think that I have an opportunity just to skip one, kind of looking back, even this whole week, you don't appreciate really.

"I've played 130-odd events. I've been six years out here. It's easy to get in a lull and be like, you just go home for two weeks and hang out and everything is all hunky-dory, but when you get here, everything changes as soon as you get on property. 

"It's a USGA event. It's huge. People everywhere. So, yeah, that changes your mind pretty quickly."

After finding some form recently, Dahmen said he is starting to encounter fans who know who he is – something he does not believe will ever feel normal.

"It is unbelievable to me how many people know my name or yell for me out there," he said. "It's weird. 

"I'm getting recognized a little bit more off the golf course – my wife will look at me, like, what is happening? 

"It's not normal. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it, but it comes with good golf."

Rory McIlroy is content with his performance across the first two rounds at The Country Club, coming into Friday one stroke off the lead, and finishing the same way after a one-under 69.

McIlroy trails only Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen, who lead at five under, but he needed to close in style to shoot back up the leaderboard after a shaky start.

His week threatened to fall apart on the third hole, but he was able to save double-bogey with a 30-foot putt to take some sort of momentum. He birdied the fifth and eighth, but bogeyed the sixth and 10th, leaving him at one under overall with eight holes to play.

But his final eight holes were magnificent, with birdies on 12, 14 and 17 to salvage an under-par round and maintain his one stroke deficit from the leaders.

Speaking to the media after his round, McIlroy said being in the hunt after Friday is all you can ask for at a major.

"After 36 holes in a major championship, that's all you want to do is put yourself right in the mix going into the weekend," he said. 

"For a little part of the day there, it seemed like I was going to be a few more behind, but I dug deep and played the last eight holes really, really well.

"That was the goal. After I bogeyed 10, I just wanted to try to shoot under par. 

"I had some chances coming up. Just played a really clean eight holes, which was pleasing. Hit fairways, hit greens, gave myself chances. Got myself right back in the tournament."

Despite being a four-time major champion, it has been nearly eight years since McIlroy's last major crown, and he said he does not think he can rely on those memories for an advantage.

"I think I have to go out with the mindset this week that I'm going to try to win my first again," he said. "I'm playing as good a golf as I've played in a long time. 

"I have a lot of experience. Yes, I've won major championships and other big events, but… just because I've done that, it doesn't mean that I'll hit better golf shots or I'll hit better putts.

"I'm in a good place. I'm really happy with where my game is at, and I think that's the most important thing."

Collin Morikawa said he feels he is becoming a more complete golfer after ditching the traditional 'cut' action to his shots in favour of a 'draw' in a bid to rediscover some form, shooting Friday's round of the day.

Morikawa was the only player to shoot 66 in the second round, backing up his Thursday 69 to hold a share of the lead heading into the weekend, along with Joel Dahmen.

To get to five under, Morikawa produced a bogey-free, three-under back nine, collecting birdies on 12, 14 and 17. His only bogey on the day came at the par-four fourth hole.

When asked if he plans on making a full-time switch to his new swing style, he pushed back, saying he instead sees it like another tool in his belt.

"No – [but] that's a great question," he said. "I think what it proves is just that you can play this game with many shots.

"I remember the first time I played with Tiger, and he hit every shot that called for it. Pin is on the right; you hit a little cut. Pin is on the left; you hit a little draw.

"I think this is just going to hopefully make my iron play and make my game a little bit more well-rounded rather than just hitting a cut – but this week we're just going to work with what we have, and right now it's a little baby draw."

Morikawa was also thankful for not copping the brunt of the weather.

"Yesterday I said I thought I'd see a 66, even a 65 from those afternoon guys – the winds picked up," he said.

"Today I thought a couple under was going to be a really good score just based on what the wind forecast was going to be like, but we got lucky.

"I finally got a good side of the draw, and it kind of calmed down a little bit on a couple holes, especially when we made the turn on to the front side. 

"I didn't take advantage, but it was nice to see some decent weather kind of fall my way. A lot of the day kind of calmed down, was really nice, really sunny."

He went on to discuss how the course is playing in a tricky way, but that there are still opportunities.

"Fairways are bouncy, and you've got to keep it in the fairways out here," he said.

"You can play out of the first cut, but you get five, six, seven yards off the fairway, you're going to be trying to run up to greens, and sometimes you can't do that out here.

"But for the most part the greens are still – I'd say they're receptive. There was probably two or three greens out here that are getting a little bouncy, and you really have to make sure you hit your spots. 

"But for the most part if you're playing out of the fairway, you have a good shot at staying somewhat aggressive to some of these pins."

Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen are the 36-hole leaders of the U.S. Open after an entertaining second round at The Country Club on Friday, tied at five under.

Dahmen was one stroke off the lead after the first round, and he followed it up with a strong 68 in windy conditions. He is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in the opening two rounds. Morikawa came into the day at one under, and shot the round of the day as the only player to get around in 66. 

One stroke back from the lead is a five-man group headlined by stars Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, along with American duo Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise. Buckley and Wise were the two players along Dahmen to shoot back-to-back 68s.

Beau Hossler joined that group at four under thanks to a chip-in birdie on his final hole.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is part of the group at three under, and he shared the early clubhouse lead following a three-under 67. He is joined by Nick Hardy, Matthew NeSmith, Patrick Rodgers and Brian Harman to round out the top-10.

Overnight leader Adam Hadwin is a further shot back at two under with Sam Burns and Matt Fitzpatrick, while South Africa's M.J. Daffue – who was three strokes clear atop the leaderboard early in his round at six under – posted five bogeys and no birdies down the back nine to head into the weekend at one under.

Also at one under are hopefuls Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris, still well within striking distance, while Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka headline the group at even par.

Star-studded duo Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are at one over, and the pair of Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau are at two over, one stroke clear of the cut-line.

Finishing right on the cut-line at three over was recent winner Lee Kyoung-hoon and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, who has a pair of top-three finishes this season.

Plenty of big names missed the cut, with the international contingent of Spain's Sergio Garcia, Ireland's Shane Lowry, Chile's Mito Pereira and Canada's Corey Conners all one shot out at four over. Tony Finau finished five over, Cameron Smith was six over, and the pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland were both at seven over.

 

Shot of the day

Cameron Young had a moment he will never forget when he conjured up a hole-in-one at the par-three sixth.

There were huge cheers after the American's dream tee shot at the 165-yard hole dropped in. Young was unable to make the cut – missing out by one stroke – but not without achieving a rare feat.

Player of the day - Collin Morikawa

Morikawa produced the round of the day to ensure he is the man to catch heading into the weekend.

The two-time major winner was not at his brilliant best, but five birdies and just the one bogey at the par-five fourth putting him in the lead.

Chipping in

Morikawa: "No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away, but you know what, right now my game feels really good. The last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can kind of make some separation somehow."

Scheffler: "I've been number one in the world for a while now, and it doesn't really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest."

 

A little birdie told me...

- Young's ace was the 48th in US Open history.

- Nick Hardy and M.J. Daffue emerged from the Springfield, Ohio qualifying. They both held a share of the lead on Friday.

- Scheffler is bidding to become only the second player to win this major while world number one since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986. Tiger Woods (2000, 2002 and 2008) is the only man to achieved that.

- Matthew Fitzpatrick is looking to emulate Jack Nicklaus by winning the US Amateur and US Open on the same course.

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