Rory McIlroy epitomised the old footballing adage ‘it’s a game of two halves’ in dropping from a two-shot first round lead to now trail by three heading to the weekend rounds of the WGC – Mexico Championship.
The World No. 1 could hardly do wrong at elevation in posting a 66 on day one of the Euro 9.7m event whereas day two produced an indifferent 69 that saw McIlroy drop back to share of sixth place at eight-under par.
American Bryson DeChambeau birdied four holes in succession from his ninth hole and then three-in-a-row from the 15th hole of his round in posting an eight-under par 63 to lead the first WGC of the New Year by a shot at 11-under par.
South African Erik Van Rooyen, celebrating his 30th birthday, brilliantly matched the Mexican course record with a 62 to be tied in second place on 10-under par with American Patrick Reed (63).
It was very much ‘army golf’ for McIlroy over the opening few holes with the overnight leader losing his two shot lead after only three holes and taking five holes before finding a first fairway on the Mexico City layout.
There had been many calls of ‘Fore Right’ after McIlroy’s first drive of the day and then calls of ‘Fore Left’ at the second in sending an outrageous 392-yard hit into the crowd and hitting a male spectator. The fan was uninjured with McIlroy presenting the gentleman with an autographed glove.
McIlroy again scrambled well to save par before sending a drive again left into the trees at the par-four, fourth hole for a third occasion in four holes from where he also cleverly saved par.
McIlroy finally found a first fairway at the fifth and while he managed to find the eighth and ninth fairways in regulation, it was a poor second shot into the ninth that resulted in dropping a shot to make the turn at one-over.
After pars at 10 and 11, there was a long overdue first birdie at the 12th hole in sinking a 22-footer but he then dropped a second shot of his round at the par-3 13th where he horribly three-putted from just 10-feet.
McIlroy then birdied the par-3 14th ahead of eventually moving under par for his round in holing a 17-footer for birdie at the par-4 16th before moving to two-under by superbly holing a 24-footer at the par-3 17th, much to the delight of a now big following of his group.
Then with a hole to play, McIlroy again had the spectators ducking for cover in completely missing the fairway to be again deep in the trees but not for a first occasion in a very indifferent day, he managed to find the green in regulation and walk off after a two-putt par.
McIlroy headed to the scorer’s hut managing to hit eight of 14 fairways and post 29 putts, including one-putting his closing three holes.
“Actually, I was going to say I didn’t putt as well as I did yesterday but then I holed a couple of nice ones at the end, played the par-5s even par today from three really good tee shots,” he said.
“I need to clean that up a little bit, be a little tidier from inside four or five feet, and if I do that, then if this is the worst round out of the way, then it’s not bad.”
After commencing with eight straight pars, McIlroy was asked the importance of staying patient over his closing 10 holes.
“Yeah, it was a very slow start. I made eight pars in a row, and then it’s like, okay, you’re either going to make a birdie or a bogey, what’s going to come first, and I ended up making a bogey on nine,” said McIlroy.
“There’s a long way to go. There’s 36 holes left. At that point I was a few shots behind, but I knew there was somebody else coming up, but yeah, I just stayed patient and try to bide my time and made a couple of nice putts coming in, and I guess my patience was rewarded a little bit.”
Fellow Irish Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell continue to play support roles though Lowry got himself into the record thanks to a round of 69 for a share of 22nd place at one-under par.
Lowry had commenced round two from the 10th tee but was one-over after a bogey at his seventh hole ahead of the highlight of his week when the reigning Open Champion birdied three holes in succession from his 14th hole.
McDowell, who has captured nine of his 16 wins at mostly sea-level, continues to struggle at altitude in adding a three-over par 74 to a first round 76 to be lying a lowly 66th at eight-over par.
Full scoring HERE