After the thrill and the excitement of a day earlier, Rory McIlroy seemed to be running on the smell of an oily rag on day two of the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
McIlroy had lit-up the East Lake course with Friday’s round of 64 that matched his best score in 25 rounds of the PGA Tour’s season-ending event.
However, Saturday’s second day seemed as flat as the continuing ‘no spectator’ policy as McIlroy went through the motions in posting a no frills one-over par 71.
Included in McIlroy’s round was just two birdies but also three bogeys, including a bizarre dropped shot at the last when after a 307-yard drive that ran into rough short of a water hazard, he then horribly hit well behind his ball to send his second all of just 30-yards into the water.
McIlroy’ s ball hardly got to more than two feet in the air and he broke out with a smirk on his face, as if to say: “How the hell did that happen?”
His day two effort saw him drop four places to be sharing eighth with a FedEx Cup aggregate eight-under total.
“Yeah, the lie was sort of iffy on 18 and my biggest concern was trying to carry the first bunker on the right there, and I knew I needed to hit it really hard and I swung hard at it, and I got it just — I got it maybe like right in the middle of the ball and I didn’t get — I felt like if I tried to sweep it, it would be better, and I just sort of came up on it a little bit,” he said.
“Probably in hindsight trying to take on a little bit too much. So yeah, and then it would have been nice to get away with a par. It wasn’t to be.
“But yeah, it doesn’t look like I’m going to lose any ground today anyway, which is some sort of consolation. But it was a little trickier today. The wind was a bit sort of everywhere. Hole locations were a little more difficult. But I’m still right there, but would have liked to have had a bit of a better finish.”
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson birdied the last in a second round 70 and remain as FedEx No. 1 in moving to an aggregate 13-under par total and one shot ahead of the field.
‘DJ’ did so in hitting just two fairways including missing his last 10 fairways.
South Korean Sunjae Im was the bigger mover with the 22-year reigning Honda Classic champ birdieing three of his closing four holes in a six-under par 64 to move on aggregate to second place 12-under par.
Im began the event in ninth place at four-under in the FedEx Cup standings with his on-course scores of 68 and 64 lifting him to just one adrift of Johnson.
Xander Schauffele with rounds of 67 and 65, and starting the event in 14th place at three-under, was third overall on 11-under par.
“It’s tough out there and you kind of have to do everything really well,” said Schauffele.
“I think that’s why I like it. It’s really fair. It’s right in front of you. I don’t know why I play well here.
“I mean, I think some statisticians could tell you, but certain holes fit my eye and I just enjoy being out here, so it’s lucky for me.”
World No. 2 and double Irish Open winner, Jon Rahm struggled dropping from second place overall and into a share of fifth with scores of 65 and 74, with the Spaniard’s second round a mix of just one birdie but playing the last 10 holes in five-over that included a 15th hole double.
Also at fifth overall is England’s Tyrrell Hatton after scores of 67 and 66.
McIlroy was askew again with his driving hitting just six of 14 fairways and, in fact, missing all five fairways at the start of his back nine before finally finding the ‘short stuff’ at the par-4 16th.
A day earlier, he could hit just five East Lake fairways.
Once on the greens on day two, McIlroy recorded 16 putts going out and 14 coming in.
McIlroy had waited six holes for a first birdie of his round and that came when he two-putted from 30-feet right of the flag at the par-5 sixth hole.
However, he posted back-to-back bogeys on seven and eighth to now be one-over for the round but got back to level in draining a five-footer for a ‘3’ at the par-4 10th hole.
It was then back on the par-making train, McIlroy posting seven straight before seeing a hopeful par-saving putt lip-out before walking from the course with a one-over total and still processing the shock of what happened further back up the 18th.
Both he and Justin Thomas (71) had played the last in a combined 12 strokes when the average two-ball score for the round in playing 18 was just nine strokes.
PGA Tour radio commentators commented McIlroy looked flat and physically tired, and who could forgive him after the life-changing events of Monday.
However, with nine players within just five shots of the lead, including McIlroy, and with two rounds to go, it remains anyone’s tournament.