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After a relatively stress-free 65 on Thursday -- his first bogey-free opening round at a major in a decade -- Rory McIlroy faced a fair share of adversity Friday in the second round of the 2024 U.S. Open. Without his best stuff for most of the day, the four-time major champion effectively navigated his way around Pinehurst No. 2 en route to a 2-over 72 to stand at 3 under through 36 holes.

McIlroy remains firmly in the championship conversation heading into the weekend sitting just two shots back of 36-hole leader Ludvig Åberg and with only four men between him and the top spot of the leaderboard.

"Obviously, not quite as well as yesterday, but I feel like the golf course plays a little more difficult, even though we were off in the morning," McIlroy said. "Some of the hole locations were definitely a little tougher. Sort of had to have your wits about you. I putted it off one green there on 17. 

"Overall, I felt like I did a pretty good job at keeping some of the mistakes off the scorecard. I wish I had converted a couple more of the chances. Hit the ball pretty well. I think only missed one fairway. So, I had plenty of opportunities. Yeah, wasn't quite as good with the putter today. Still overall in a great position going into the weekend."

Once again brilliant off the tee splitting 13 of 14 fairways with a variety of shots and shapes, Rory's crispness and creativity lacked a smidge when he approached the greens. That began immediately as McIlroy stood in the fairway on his second hole of the round, the par-4 11th, and yanked his wedge effort from 150 yards left of the green leading to his first dropped shot of the week.

He remained disciplined over the next handful of holes, however, giving himself plenty of chances from that 30-foot range; unfortunately, he was unable to cash them. McIlroy's tee shot into the devilish par-3 15th came up short of the false front protecting the pin and led to his second bogey when he failed to convert his 10-foot par save. 

A third square on the scorecard appeared all but certain on the next par 3, No. 17, when McIlroy found the green in regulation only to putt his birdie attempt off the green entirely. Of course, he then chipped in for par to remain at 3 under for the championship.

The 35-year-old got a shot back on the par-4 2nd courtesy of his best iron shot of the day settling just outside 6 feet from the pin. From there, McIlroy took a trip on the par train -- some better than others -- including a nice save on the par-5 5th that elicited a fist pump. It was a particular success given playing partners Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler both walked off the green with double bogeys on their cards.

The thought of hopping off with a birdie on the par-3 9th was a possibility as it was playing as one of the few under-par holes Friday morning. Unfortunately for McIlroy, instead of a birdie chance, another bogey came as his tee shot came up short and plugged in the greenside bunker. Doing well to blast his second inside 15 feet, the 2011 champion was unable to salvage par and instead tapped in for bogey and his 72.

While an over-par round may not jump off the page, McIlroy's effort came in just around the field average. Notably without some of the feels from Thursdays' first round, the Northern Irishman hung tough and put together a round that kept him in square in this championship with 36 holes to go.