Rory McIlroy gave the perfect response to his nightmare finish in round one to lift himself back into contention through 36 holes of the Memorial Tournament.
McIlroy triple bogeyed the 18th on Thursday to settle for a level-par 72 but bounced back with a four-under 68 to move to within four of leader Justin Such who shot a Friday 66 to hit -8.
The four-time major champion shares seventh place after carding six birdies and two bogeys as the big names gathered at the summit with Hideki Matsuyama (65) on -7, Patrick Cantlay (67) on -6 and Jon Rahm (70) on four-under.
“I felt good about everything that I did yesterday,” said McIlroy who finished with two birdies in his last three holes.
“I got one bad break on 18 with that ball finishing on the bank of the bunker. So I really feel like I’m one shot out of leading this golf tournament. That rolls down it into the bunker, hopefully able to hit it on the green and make a 4, and instead of standing here at 4-under, I would be at 7-under and feeling really good about everything.
“So again, I felt like I did a lot of really good things yesterday and I did a lot of good things right, so I can’t let that one sort of unlucky break sort of hide the fact that everything else was working pretty well.”
Although things seem better on the course for McIlroy since The Masters, Wells Fargo and the PGA Championship, he doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with his game.
“I’ll do the same today, just building on the feels that I’ve been trying to work on. I was saying in that interview, like, this is a process that will take — the swings that I make on the range compared to the swings I make out there, they’re not the same. They won’t match up for awhile.
“So it’s just a matter of working little by little, sort of trying to do it every day that the feels become more and more comfortable so that over time it just sort of beds in itself.”
McIlroy has a win in Dubai to add to his four top-10s in nine starts but he admits he has been working on his swing while in competition.
“I think these things were creeping in at the end of 2022, probably. And again, that’s why it was — you know, we have all been advocating for an off-season and there’s certain reasons why guys want — it’s very hard to try to play your best golf when you’re really thinking about your golf swing.
“So that off-season time would be nice to work on your mechanics and your fundamentals so that you’ve got those sort of bedded in so that you can sort of roll going into the bulk of the season. I didn’t really feel like I had the necessary time to do that over the — you want to take a little bit of time off over the holidays, get yourself back into it.
“So it’s just — my reluctancy to work on — like I know it’s been creeping in, but reluctancy to work on it was more to do with the fact of how much golf we had coming up and just not really wanting to be thinking about my golf swing a ton.”
Seamus Power struggled to a one-over 73 for a one-under halfway total and he lies in a share of 22nd place as Shane Lowry carded a double and a triple bogey in a four-over 76.
The Clara man was just two shots off the first round lead but bogeyed three of his first four holes before chucking in a seven on the par-5 5th. He responded well with back-to-back birdies before birdieing the 11th.
However, the triple bogeyed the par-3 12th but ensured he would at least make the cut with a birdie on 15.