Having missed a shortish birdie putt on the par 5 13th as darkness descended on Friday evening, McIlroy took to the 14th tee this morning at five under for his round, -3 for the tournament.
But he looked a little out of sorts again, certainly far from the man who’d come out all guns blazing the previous afternoon. After pushing his tee shot right on 13, but making a relatively easy par thereafter, he slightly pulled it on 13, watching anxiously as the ball clung on to the left side of a fairway that slopes sharply towards the hazard that flanks the entire left-hand side of the hole.
With 241 yards to the hole, and additional water short, he made the aggressive play but pulled his approach left and had to take a drop. A nice, 72-yard wedge shot to three feet saw him save par, but with ground to make up, it was a missed opportunity.
He then reached the infamous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, already buzzing on what is traditionally the wildest day at what has already been a lively week at an extremely lively tournament.
Yesterday, a bearded, long-haired man streaked onto the course, wearing just a bikini bottom, and made his way up to the 16th green. After pole dancing with the flag, he niftily side-stepped a security guard, and disappeared off down the tunnel a (very temporarily) free man.
All to the fans delight, of course, which duly grew as he retuned back through the tunnel moments later, several security guards in hot pursuit, back up onto the green, and took a triumphant belly-flop into the greenside pond.
A two-putt par for McIlroy was tame by comparison, and for the second time this week, he missed the green to the right on the driveable par-4 17th. Short-sided again, this time he pitched to 40-feet and three-putted for bogey, pushing him back to -2 for the tournament. And that’s how his second-round ended after another par at the last.
By virtue of the bogey at the 17th, he’d dropped to T30 and would have a quick turnaround as he’d be due on tee again soon for his third round.
He’s joined there by Seamus Power who made the cut on the number. The Waterford man was anxiously watching this morning’s action not knowing if he’d be working today or not..
Shane Lowry, needing a minor miracle to earn himself a third-round tee time, started poorly and his tough few weeks continue. He’ll head for Riviera in L.A. for next week’s Genesis Invitational hosted by, and as we recently learned, starring Tiger Woods himself.
Woods will make his first regular tour start since his accident following this event two years prior.
But back in Phoenix, Scottie Scheffler, at -10, has been joined at the top by Adam Hadwin, and Rahm – second overnight at -8 – has two for company, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. Schauffele backed up his opening 67 with another, but Spieth, -5 overnight and coming from a bogey on his last hole, went three-under through his six holes this morning
Spieth and Schauffele are joined by Wyndham Clark, while Rahm will join Scheffler and Hadwin in the final group.
McIlroy is grouped with Lucas Herbert and Brian Harman, while Power will play with Adam Long and Taylor Pendrith.