Rory McIlroy’s pride may helped in birding four of his closing six holes but there was no disguising his horrors on the second day of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Park on New York’s Long Island.
McIlroy painfully celebrated the second day of his first major as a 30-year old with two contrasting nine holes in a sad score of a one-over par 71 for a three-over par tally.
The four-time Major winners efforts to bridge a nine-shot deficit on defending champ, Brooks Koepka began with McIlroy dropping five shots over his opening three hole.
McIlroy, and a former double PGA champ, double-bogeyed his first, bogeyed his second and then doubled his third to be in real danger of missing the cut in this, his 42nd Major.
The fact the Holywood golfing starlet was able to turn it all around over his inward half was all down to ‘pride’.
“It was my pride. Just pride that helped me turn it around,” he said.
“I was simply trying to play a good round of golf and try to get something that’s close to the best out of myself. And, yeah, I don’t like missing cuts. It’s not something that I’m used to fortunately, and I wanted to be around for the weekend.
“And at least if you’re around for the weekend, you can go out there and maybe shoot a good one tomorrow and at least give yourself half a chance.
Ahead of a birdie at his fourth hole, the par-5 13th McIlroy had slumped to five-over par for his round, seven-over for the championship, and dropped 74 places into a T125th position, four shots shy of the then expected cut-off mark.
McIlroy teed-off from the 502-yard par-4 10th and did so by sending his drive well right into knee-high rough from where his second shot veered left into similar knee-high rough.
There was plenty of deliberation between McIlroy and his caddy, Harry Diamond and with Diamond, at first, not having an immediate yardage to the flag. So, with McIlroy’s legs lost from view in the rough, Diamond left the fairway to take some 15 paces into the rough to where McIlroy’s ball was sitting and advise the World No. 4 he had 92-yards to the pin.
McIlroy played the shot that left long strains of grass clinging to the clubface only for his ball to fall 40-feet short of the green from where he chipped to 10-feet but missed his bogey putt for a horror starting hole ‘6’ as he headed to the next tee shaking his head in disappointment.
And there was then no joy off the tee at the par-4 11th with McIlroy, who had hit 8 of 14 fairways on day one, again right and this time finding a fairway bunker from where he had 128-yards to the flag. It seemed McIlroy’s second just clipped the very edge of the bunker lip and with his second finding the ‘dance floor’ but a good 40-feet short of ‘the band’.
He then sent his first putt six-foot past the flag from where McIlroy missed his par putt to be now three-over for the round and back into a share of 108th and joining fellow Irishman Shane Lowry on five-over.
There was no let-up with McIlroy sending his tee shot at the par-4 12th hole again right and on this occasion sending spectators scattering from where he elected to hit 74-yards back to the fairway but after having just 148-yards to the flag, he missed the green back left by some 22-feet.
To add insult to injury, McIlroy failed to find the green with his chip shot from where he two-putted for a second double-bogey of his round.
While McIlroy began his round looking to make inroads on Koepka’s lead, all the talk now of McIlroy making the halfway cut.
McIlroy will play all four rounds but with Koepka sprinting his way to a repeat PGA victory, McIlroy is already playing a lowly supporting role even though he’s got history of winning before from such a second day start.
“I was 4-over through three holes in Boston a couple years ago and ended up winning the tournament, and that just sort of came back into my mind after I made that start,” he boasted.
“So, in a way it’s calming. I’ve been in this position before and I’ve been able to come back.
“If you go back to Birkdale a couple years ago where I was 4-over through five or five-over through six and shot 71, and all of a sudden finish, you know, had half a chance on the back nine that day.
“So, it’s not as if I haven’t been in those positions before, it’s just a matter of not pressing too much and staying patient and letting the good golf sort of come through.
“It did take a while today, but I eventually got here.”
No such scenario for European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington who was assured of missing the cut with scores of 75 and 77 for a 12-over par total.
Harrington’s round was sour cocktail of just two birdies but also seven bogeys and, like McIlroy, a pair of double-bogeys.
It is the sixth occasion in the past seven PGA Championships Harrington has missed the halfway cut.