Rory McIlroy vowed he would never give up seeking more major titles after a flying finish left him just two shots off the halfway lead in the 123rd US Open.
McIlroy covered his last nine holes in five under par to card a second round of 67 at Los Angeles Country Club, where Rickie Fowler set the pace after a rollercoaster 68.
Fowler, whose opening 62 equalled the lowest score in any men’s major, made eight birdies, six bogeys and just four pars to post a 10-under-par halfway total of 130, equalling the lowest in a US Open set by Martin Kaymer in 2014.
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Fowler’s 18 birdies over the first two days are also the most in championship history and kept the 34-year-old in pole position to claim a first major title.
McIlroy is seeking his fifth and a first since the US PGA Championship in August 2014, a month after he had won the Open at Royal Liverpool with a performance which has inspired this week’s approach.
“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.”
Fowler had failed to qualify for the last two US Opens as a loss of form saw him tumble to 185th in the world rankings, but came into the week on the back of successive top 10s on the PGA Tour and ranked 45th.
“I sure hope everyone can relate to struggles because everyone deals with them. No one’s perfect,” the Californian said.
“I think you’d be lying if you haven’t been through a tough time, especially if you play golf.
“I’m looking forward to the weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this good in a tournament, let alone a major. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
American Wyndham Clark was a shot behind Fowler following a 67, with Xander Schauffele alongside McIlroy on eight under after only managing to add a 70 to his opening 62.
Harris English held outright fifth place on seven under with Dustin Johnson recovering from a quadruple-bogey eight on the second to remain six under, a total matched by Australia’s Min Woo Lee thanks to a superb 65.
Tournament officials had earlier insisted they would not respond harshly to the record low scores on day one, although the par-three 11th measured 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 could do things that could make it stupid hard. We’re not going to do that.”
Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick made a hole-in-one on the 15th as he carded a 70 to lie one over par and make the halfway cut with a shot to spare.