The one thing in golf that can save you is the putter. A bad drive, a poor approach and even a weak chip shot can all be saved by a good putt, and when you're hitting the ball badly, you really must lean on the flat-stick to keep you afloat, especially at the U.S. Open.
For Rory McIlroy on Thursday at Pinehurst, it was the complete opposite. Rory, the kid with the golden golf swing, had a magnificent day swinging the golf club, missing only one fairway on this hard and dry track and hitting 14 of 18 greens – impressive considering how Pinehurst is playing – but it was a balky putter that has him looking up at a leaderboard with tons of guys between him and the top.
How good did Rory hit the ball on Thursday? His playing partner and clubhouse leader, Graeme McDowell, complimented him multiple times after his round, saying it was a "ball-striking display" put on by Rory, going on to say "he hit some beautiful golf shots ... I'd like to play like that sometime, but it's never going to happen."
Those are interesting words, especially coming from a guy that opened with a 2-under 68 (and with a U.S. Open title under his belt), but Rory's 33 putts were the thing that held him back.
The good news for McIlroy is if the putter wakes up, and his golf swing continues to produce these types of results, the championship might be his to take.
We've seen McIlroy do this in the past, winning both his major championships by a combined 16 shots, and it seems he's in that zone again with his swing. It's just the putter that will have to get going if he wants to post a Friday score to get him near the lead come the weekend.