An unsettling trend

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HOYLAKE, England -- Beware Freaky Friday. That is now Rory McIlroy's ultimate goal.

Not fretting over his golf swing. Or worrying about his putting stroke. Or obsessing about the vagaries of links golf. Simply get from Friday to Saturday without the calamities that have befallen him not once, not twice, but on six occasions this year, including just last week in Scotland.

McIlroy began the Open Championship with a 6-under-par 66 Thursday to take the early lead at Royal Liverpool.

Nothing new there. He led after a 64 last week at the Scottish Open. He led after a 63 in May at the Memorial. Both times, he followed with rounds of 78. In fact, McIlroy has shot scores of 40 or higher for nine holes on six occasions this year, all on Fridays. A seventh such score occurred during the third round of the U.S. Open.

So it made perfect sense that the first question asked of McIlroy on Thursday was about, well ... Friday.

"When you go back out on Friday after a good score, you know what you can do on the golf course," McIlroy said. "So you're going out with some expectations compared to when on Thursday you're going out with not many.

"I think I've just got to approach it like that, and start trying to hit solid shots the first few holes and play my way into the round, just like I did today. I hit some really good shots on the first holes and that gave me confidence and then I could go from there.

"But really, just take one hole at a time, one shot at a time. I know everyone says it and you've heard it a million times, but it's true. That's what I'll be trying to do tomorrow."

What has happened to McIlroy on Fridays is freaky because of his stature as the eighth-ranked player in the world, one who has won two major championships. And yet, it's not really a fluke; it's been a trend.

It started at Doral when McIlroy shot 40 through nine holes in a round of 74 on Friday. It happened again at the Masters. And at the Wells Fargo Championship. And the Players Championship. And the worst was the Memorial, where he opened with a 63, then began his second round by shooting 43 over the first nine on the way to a 78. Last week at Royal Aberdeen, he did it again.

Even Jack Nicklaus, tournament host of the Memorial, asked McIlroy during a chat they had prior to the U.S. Open: "How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78?"

"I had a bad Friday afternoon at Augusta and then just made the cut," McIlroy said. "And then I started off horrifically at Quail Hollow on Friday afternoon. And then did the same thing at Sawgrass. That's three tournaments in a row. That's when I was conscious of it.

"I was 3 over through nine at Wentworth [where he won the BMW PGA Championship in May], and then I was able to get it back in form. And then Memorial obviously was the biggest one. There's nothing really to it. It's just maybe higher expectations going out on a Friday because you shot a low round, and just trying to put those expectations aside and just try to take it one hole at a time."

There was plenty to like Thursday. McIlroy made six birdies and no bogeys. He hit 14 greens in regulation.

But his second-round scoring average of 72.9 ranks 181st on the PGA Tour.

Something has to give Friday. Right?

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