McIlroy said he and Woods chatted during the round, though both tried to keep focused on the task at hand. After missing a final birdie putt on their last hole, the 10th, McIlroy told Woods that he was trying to make the putt so he didn't have to play with Woods on Saturday.
"So he's got the pleasure of playing with me," McIlroy said. "But, no, we had a good laugh out there and just because it's the U.S. Open doesn't mean anything."
McIlroy, the 2011 Open champion at Congressional who has struggled this year after switching to Nike equipment, had his moments, including an iron shot to the eighth hole that gave him a tap-in birdie and put him under par for the day. But he gave it back on the next hole and had to hit a great shot out of the deep rough on his final hole to finish off his even par second round.
The kind of challenge Merion has been so far was reflected in the score of both players. They made six birdies apiece during the first two rounds, but both also made nine bogeys — an average of one in every four holes.
"It tests every aspect of your game," McIlroy said, referring to Merion. "You've got to drive it well. Where these pins are, you got to hit great iron shots. You got to be very tactical. You got to be mentally really well there and have a good game plan."
Like Woods, McIlroy was comfortable with where he was midway through the championship.
"There were people talking about 62s and 63s at the start of the week and, I mean, I never saw that at all," he said. "I still think that something very little under par is going to win this week. If or if not that, around even par."