On a day when the overnight leaders couldn’t distance themselves from the rest of the field, Rory McIlroy unfortunately didn’t gain any ground and still finds himself seven shots behind heading to the weekend.
McIlroy knew that if he was to challenge the leaders he’d need to put in a good showing on Friday and a fast start would be vital. Once again though he found himself on the wrong side of Lady Luck and having hit a good drive down the first, his ball ricocheted into the rough.
“Yeah my drive on the first hit the cameraman and went into the rough and that was sort of the story of the day. I hit it right of the green on two and thought it was okay and it was in those stones that they throw down here when it gets wet, I thought I could get a drop, which I couldn’t.
“Then I hit a great drive down 3 and I was in a divot, so I had to really stay patient because I wasn’t getting any sort of breaks. Even after good shots I wasn’t really getting rewarded.”
Solid pars followed on 4 and 5 and then the fireworks started with an arrow-like tee shot on the par-3 6th which pitched beside the flag finishing 10 feet away. The holed birdie putt put a noticeable spring in his step and took him to one over for the tournament.
A good sand save on the 7th was followed by the highlight of his round, an eagle at the par-5 8th following a 338-yard drive and a 224-yard second shot to 8-feet from where he duly converted and moved to one-under par.
“Eagle on 8 was fantastic. That got me going. I had a great putt on 9, I don’t know how that didn’t go in. Got up and down on 10. And then the hooter blew on 11 and that sort of stopped any of the momentum. So I just had to try to pick it up a little from there.
“When this course gets wet it plays so weird. You get mud balls and the fairways are cut back against you, then it gets wet and I got a mud ball on 13 which goes right into the water and then I got a flyer off the fairway on 14.”
The leading 7-under score is shared by five Major winners, the most Major title holders there have been sharing any Masters tournament lead, with three being the next nearest in 1966. And as they were jostling for position, with Adam Scott and Jason Day on a charge it looked like the lead could have gone to eight-under, which would have been bad news for McIlroy who was on the 15th at the time on one-under par.
“Having to get it up and down from 185 yards on 15 for par, thinking that the lead could get to eight-under and under the ten shot rule, I was grinding to try and be here for the weekend. Thankfully I got it up and down and then made a good two on 16 and then played the last couple pretty well,” he said.
“Overall I felt like I played better than the score says but I think I did well considering what it could have been. I was patient and I felt like my attitude was pretty good considering.”
As for what tomorrow will bring, who knows. The weather will most certainly have its part to play with storms predicted for Sunday but McIlroy knows what he has to do; “I think it depends what weather we’re going to get over the next couple of days. Seven back is still right there, you get off to a good start tomorrow and go out in 32 or 31 and all of a sudden you’re right back in the golf tournament.
“So yeah I’m a little happier tonight than I was last night. Go out and shoot a good round tomorrow and hopefully I’ll have something to play for on Sunday.”