The Englishman had a chance for a piece of the third-round lead at the U.S. Open on Saturday as he lined up his third shot on the par-5 final hole - a 50-yard wedge from the bottom of the hill that led to the green.
Second-ranked McIlroy, who has played just six tournaments this year while battling a nagging rib injury, shot one-under 71 after opening with a six-over 78, and number three Day had a second-round 75 to finish on 10-over 154.
Englishmen Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood and Americans Brian Harman and Brooks Koepka are sitting at seven-under, a shot ahead of Fowler, also of the United States, who had a one-over-par and is tied with compatriots J.B. Holmes and Jamie Lovemark. Of the group, it was Casey who had the wildest day. He bogeyed the 11, 12 and 13 holes and missed an easy birdie putt on the par five 14.
"It's not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an eight on the card, but I'm a pretty happy man".
Paul Casey (-7) - After falling all the way down to 2 under for the tournament, Casey birdied five straight holes to fight his way towards the top of the leaderboard.
"My best friend has caddied for me for six or seven years", said Champ. "It's just like I said, you've got to keep it in the short grass, out of that fescue, and don't make any bogeys". "Even just trying to take my medicine was very, very hard. It was a good eight in the end".
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan walks across the 18th hole during the second round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 16, 2017 in Hartford, Wisconsin. As I've gotten older, I've gotten a little farther, but a lot more straighter. "There were a couple of loose swings out there, but when you shoot 65, you can take those". It's just, concentrate on each day as it comes.
South Korean Kim Si-woo bogeyed the par-three ninth hole to slip back to five under par, two off the pace, as he completed a round of two-under-par 70. Harman was at 12-under 204 and still only had a one-shot lead, with Rickie Fowler two shots behind. "The course sets up very well for me off the tee".
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"I was a little anxious going out there", McIlroy said. He outplayed his playing partners, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, during the first 36 holes, and he obviously knows how to win majors (2010 PGA Championship, 2014 U.S. Open).
The last six majors have been taken by first-time winners.
"The biggest thing about this course is that the fairways are massive", Day said.
"I felt the most calm I have in a major in a long time this week", said Day, who arrived last Friday.
One stroke back are a trio of Americans in J.B. Holmes, Jamie Lovemark and first-round leader Fowler.
The left-handed Harman had three birdies, two of them on par threes, and one bogey.
"I'm optimistic with where my game is ... some of where my game is".
Holywood's McIlroy finished four under for the final six holes, which helped the four-time major victor post a one-under-par 71 in Wisconsin, but the damage was done in the first round as McIlroy hit six over to effectively end his chances at the second major of the year.