McIlroy has a mountain to climb in Valhalla

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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For the second major running Rory McIlroy’s hopes of winning a fifth title are dangling by a thread at the halfway stage after he stumbled on day two of the PGA Championship in Valhalla.

This had all the hallmarks of the 2022 Open and 2023 US Open final rounds, where the putter went stone cold, only this time he was putting huge pressure on his short game to bail him out in a performance littered with mistakes as he slogged to a 71 to lie on five-under, seven behind Xander Schauffele.

The Holywood star made the ideal start, draining a 40-foot birdie putt on the first and after he cheaply three-putted the sixth for bogey from just short of the green, he tapped in for a birdie on 7 before a catalogue of errors ensued.

A heroic par where he rolled in from 25-feet on the ninth looked like a momentum saver with the par-5 10th to come, but he was unable to find the fairway off the tee and he could only par it. Then, in textbook McIlroy fashion, there is always something that goes wrong.

Having found the fairway on the 12th, McIlroy pushed his approach into the green side bunker. He took four to get down costing him a double bogey six and with it potentially his chances of ending his near ten-year wait for a fifth major title at the site of his last in 2014.

He did birdie 18 to get back to five-under but between him and Schauffele are some thoroughbreds in Collin Morikawa (-11), Scottie Scheffler (-9), Bryson DeChambeau (-9), Viktor Hovland (-8), Brooks Koepka (-7).

It could have been a wider gap when Schauffele tapped in for birdie on the par-5 10th to get to thirteen-under, but a clumsy bogey on 11 and seven closing pars has seen the pack bunch up behind him heading into the weekend.

The American looked flawless for the first ten holes, peppering flagsticks and he had the putter to match, rolling in birdies on the 3rd, 7th, 9th and 10th as he hunts his maiden major crown.

“Yeah, when you haven’t won a golf tournament in a few years, you have to be pretty resilient. I’m just patient and trying to play the best golf I can and stay out of my own way. I know I’m playing really good golf right now, and all can I could do is focus on my process and my talk with Austin, and that’s about it.

“I just hung tough. I felt like I just tried to hit as many good shots after good shots as possible. I felt like I was able to do that, and despite the mud and the delay and all those things, I felt like I really just got in my zone there and made a lot of good swings. So I’m proud of that.”

Shane Lowry continued his recovery after bogeying his first two holes in round one with a second successive 69 to climb into the top-30 on four-under-par.

Pádraig Harrington missed the cut on ten-over.


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