Officials have only praise for low scores at Congressional

Reporting from Bethesda, Md.

The perception is that USGA officials hate seeing red numbers at a U.S. Open.

So wouldn't double digits in the red be cause for round-the-clock psychiatric sessions?

Absolutely not, said Mike Davis, the USGA executive in charge of setting up Congressional Country Club.

"I think it's fantastic," Davis said of Rory McIlroy's tournament-record 11-under total after two rounds. "I didn't get to see all the shots, but he executed them really well and he was rewarded, and that's what we want.

"It's kind of like Tiger at Pebble Beach in 2000."

Tiger Woods opened with rounds of 65-69 at Pebble, good for eight under. He stretched it to 12 under as he crossed the finish line, beating the field by 15 strokes.

McIlroy played 35 bogey-free holes before stumbling on the 18th on Friday with a double bogey. He has 11 birdies and an eagle.

So, Davis was asked, is it time to Rory-proof the golf course?

"We're not quite there yet," he said with a laugh.

Swift turnaround

UCLA's Patrick Cantlay knew he needed a good round to avoid missing the cut. What he turned in matched the fifth-best U.S. Open round by an amateur.

Cantlay's four-under 67 lifted him more than 70 places on the leaderboard, all the way into the top 20. Now he's in the hunt for low-amateur honors.

"It's easier playing from the fairway," said Cantlay, the world's top-ranked amateur. "I drove it better today, and I really felt comfortable on the greens."

After playing the front side in one over, a three-birdie run jump-started Cantlay's hopes. He rolled home a 25-foot putt at No. 10, struck from farther away at No. 11 and converted from kick-in distance at No. 12.

"It really puts you at ease when you go to the next hole," said Cantlay, who won four events as a freshman and swept college golf's postseason awards.

Low amateur at the Open would be nice, but he said it wouldn't change his plans to take the winding road toward his inevitable pro status.

"My timeline is after I graduate from UCLA," he said.

Three golfers share the record for lowest Open round by an amateur. James McHale fired a 65 in the third round of the 1947 Open at St. Louis Country Club, matched by Jim Simons (1971, Merion) and Nick Taylor (2009, Bethpage). John Goodman carded a 66 at the 1933 Open.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Beau Hossler of Santa Margarita High added a 77 to his 76 and missed the cut.

Survivor

Luke Donald almost played his way out of the weekend, bogeying four of his last seven holes in carding rounds of 74-72. The world's top-ranked player will make the cut on the number after hitting only 14 of 28 fairways.

"The back nine is long," he said, "so if you miss the fairway, you can't get to the green as much."

Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim and Bubba Watson were among the big-name players who also will survive by a single shot.

Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Stewart Cink and Adam Scott are on the wrong side of the cut line.

tgreenstein@tribune.com

jshain@orlandosentinel.com

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