Rory McIlroy has set his sights firmly on another US Open title as Phil Mickelson continues to lead the way in Philadelphia.
The Ulsterman remains within touching distance of leaders Mickelson and fellow American Billy Horschel with just part of the second round completed.
McIlroy matched playing partner Tiger Woods with a second round 70, level par at Merion, to finish his first two rounds on three over par.
The 2011 champion may end up playing with world number one Woods again when the third round finally gets underway on Saturday.
McIlroy produced one of the best rounds of the day in difficult conditions on Friday with his even par 70 and was pleased with himself afterwards.
He told reporters: “I’m very happy. I’m right in there for the weekend. I don’t think I’ll be too far away by the end of the day, in a nice position going into the last two days.”
Clearly McIlroy enjoyed his two rounds with Nike stablemate Woods and joked: “I told him on the last there that I was trying to hole the putt, so I didn’t have to play with him again tomorrow.
“It doesn’t change that it’s a US Open or whatever. We still get on well and there was still a good bit of chatter out this and a good bit of needling every now and again.”
Fellow Ulster golfers Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke won’t be around for the weekend however after finishing on 13 and 15 over respectively.
Champion by eight shots at Congressional two years ago, McIlroy added: “It’s unfortunate that Darren and G-Mac aren’t here for the weekend, but I’ll do my best to try to bring that trophy home another time.
“I feel like I’ve been playing well. I’ve been telling everyone for a while that the game is getting there and to get through two rounds of the toughest test at the US Open and play the way I did, it’s very promising going into the weekend.”
McDowell is turning his sights to the British Open after a disappointing tournament.
He said: “I’m temporarily dejected. I’ll shake it off and I’ll get ready for the Open Championship in a few weeks’ time. That’s my next target. I struggled the last couple days, but that’s golf and that’s the US Open.”
Dubliner Padraig Harrington is also in contention for another Major despite a double bogey six at the 15th before poor light stopped play on Friday night.
That moved him to one over for his round and four over for the tournament after he had got within one shot of the leaders.
Waterford amateur Kevin Phelan is now on six over for the tournament after nine holes of his second round. The cut is expected to fall at eight over.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore