Rory McIlroy nearly aced his final hole Friday, striping a 153-yard approach on No. 9 to a hot dog’s length. The closing birdie amounted to whipped cream on a pile of trash.
Playing partner Jason Day finished with a bogey, and the two major champions strolled off together.
“Get ’em next time, boys!” a spectator hollered.
As Day arrived at the Erin Hills scoring area, 4-year-old Dash jumped into his father’s arms.
“Daddy, are we going home?” he asked.
Shockingly enough, the answer was yes.
The world’s No. 2- and No. 3-ranked players, McIlroy and Day, headed home before moving day.
Fellow major champions Danny Willett, Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker, Angel Cabrera, Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson, Lucas Glover, Charl Schwartzel, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson (the defending champ) and Justin Rose also missed the cut.
How strange is professional golf?
A fellow named Xander Schauffele, who ranks 352nd in the world, and a Texas A&M bomber who goes by the catchy Cameron Champ are a combined 10-under par heading into the weekend.
McIlroy and Day combined to play Erin Hills in 15 over.
As he approached his post-round interview, a USGA official announced: “Jason Day: 79 yesterday, 75 today.”
“Thanks, mate,” Day replied with a chuckle.
“I enjoyed the walk,” Day said. “The walk was great.”
Day and McIlroy are two of the friendliest and classiest players on tour. They remained cheery throughout the round and blamed their struggles on no one or nothing but themselves.
“The golf course is actually really beautiful,” Day said. “The fairways are massive. I was in the hay, too, much over the last couple of days. Just didn’t execute, unfortunately.”
Said McIlroy: “The golf course is great, it really is. I’m a big fan of this place. It’s a big, big golf course, with long rough and all that stuff, but it lets you play. It lets you be aggressive, you can get on runs where you can make birdies. Not your typical U.S. Open setup, but I’m a big fan. I think it’s going to produce a really good winner at the end of the week. I’m looking forward to how it unfolds over the weekend.”
Day: “At least I’ll get to sit in air con and watch the guys tear it up.”
Day merely tore up the fescue Friday. After a long wait on the seventh tee and some friendly banter with McIlroy and Rose, Day blocked his drive a mile right.
“Over here, Jason,” a volunteer called out as he approached an area near the 18th fairway.
“Make some room, please,” a security official told the gallery.
Day’s ball sat up nicely. Onlookers chuckled after he told an official: “They can stay if they want. I can hit it right over their heads.”
And he did.
“I knew I was out of it,” Day said. “I was trying to stay out of the way of Rosey.”
Rose had the best chance to make the cut, but he fell a stroke shy at 2 over.
Day hasn’t been in great form this season, but he said he felt this was his “best preparation going into a major, I felt like, in my career … and I felt the most calm I have in a major in a long time this week.”
Two first-round triple bogeys did him in.
McIlroy, despite having played a limited schedule because of a rib injury, was so confident heading into the week, he said: “We have 60 yards from left line to right line. You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here, if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
He then hit five of 14 fairways, fewest in the field. His putter was the problem Friday.
“Yeah, I don’t think it was the putter,” he said wryly. “It was the guy on the end of it.”
Follow Teddy Greenstein on Twitter @TeddyGreenstein