World No. 1 Rory McIlroy bizarrely singled out hitting practice balls overnight in the basement of a rented accomodation as a key to moving well into contention on day two of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth, Texas.
McIlroy broke free after parring his closing nine holes in a day one 68 to cut a swath through the Lone Star State field with a rousing Colonial club second round 63 to move to nine-under par.
McIlroy headed off for a ‘grab-and-go’ lunch in the strict Coronavirus conscious restrictions with a lowest PGA Tour score since a similar 63 on day three of last October’s Zozo Championship in Japan.
He did need a birdie at the last to join seven others with a share of the course record of 61 but then it was a ‘good’ bogey, if there is such a thing, as he holed an eight foot putt to ensure no gloss was taken off a magical second round effort.
“It was really good and I felt like I built my score really well,” he said.
“I took advantage of some of the easier holes. I played conservatively on some of the tougher ones, especially three, four and five, the horrible horseshoe. I made three of my pars there and moved on and then birdied the next two holes. Just smart, played to my strengths, put it in play and gave myself plenty of chances.
“I felt pretty comfortable out there, and hopefully I can do the exact same thing over the next two days.”
McIlroy and caddy, Harry Diamond are staying the week in a rented house rather than the confines of the strictly-controlled official hotels and it was working on a golf simulator that helped turn around his game.
“Actually, the rental home we’re staying in this week has a simulator in the basement, and I actually hit a few balls in there last night, and that helped,” he said.
“Also, as it’s so hot here in Fort Worth, you don’t want to take too much energy out of yourself.
“So, the fact that where we’re staying has a simulator and you can hit some shots into the — I guess get some numbers, I just needed to sort of dial them in a little bit.
“I did that last night, and it seemed to help this morning.”
American Harold Varner III, who shared the overnight lead on seven-under, brilliantly bounced back from a shock first hole triple bogey ‘7’ to birdie five of his closing six holes in a score of a four-under par 66 to head to the clubhouse at 11-under par.
Nearby Dallas resident Jordan Spieth posted a second straight score of 65 as he looks to end a near three-year winless drought.
The four-time Major winning McIlroy began his round from the 10th before the first of six birdies in his round when he holed a 16-footer for birdie at the par-3 13th and then picked-up a second birdie in holing a six-footer at the next.
McIlroy moved to three-under for his round and eight-under in total by landing a 142-yard second shot to just four-feet at the par-4 17th before sending the putt to the bottom of the cup.
He then brilliantly capped his day in eagling the par-5 first hole or the 10th hole of his round when he holed a 23-foot eagle ‘3’ putt though there was not even the proverbial old man and his dog to witness McIlroy’s heroics.
The only on-course noise for two days has come from the local birdlife and the occasional jet taking off from close-by DFW Airport located around halfway between the virtual twin cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth.
McIlroy was not backing off sending a 324-yard drive to just 48-yards from the hole at the next, the par-4 second hole, before chipping to 10-feet to move to six-under for his round.
He then holed birdie putts of five-foot and three-feet at his 15th and 16th holes to move to eight-under for the day to be sharing second place at 10-under par.
The only disappointment for McIlroy was a poor drive down his last hole where he was blocked by a tree and forced to lay-up around 80-yards shy of the green from where he chipped and two-putted for the only bogey of his round.
And after posting 31 putts on day one, McIlroy reduced that tally by five putts that included a real knee-knocker for bogey on 18.
McIlroy’s compatriots Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell were out in the afternoon half of the draw along with England’s Justin Rose, who had shared the overnight lead.