Rory McIlroy kept himself in FedEx Cup victory contention by superbly managing to birdie his closing two holes on day two of the storm-affected Tour Championship in Atlanta.
McIlroy, the winner of the event three years ago, posted a three-under par 67 to be tied in second place with American Justin Thomas (68) on 12-under par, with the duo trailing just one shot behind World No. 1 Brooks Koepka.
Koepka just missed an eagle ‘3’ putt at the last in a second straight 67 to move into the lead at 13-under par while former Tour Championship winner Xander Schauffele birdied the 17th and then sank a 23-footer in a round of 69 to move to 11-under par.
Not for a first time this season McIlroy bogeyed his opening hole when he sent the spectators scurrying for cover right off the first tee and the proceeded to miss the green left from where he chipped to eight-feet but walked off with a two-putt bogey ‘5.
McIlroy regained the shot at the par-5 sixth hole where he split the fairway with a booming 326-yard drive and while his second shot was long, he proceeded to chip his third shot to less than two-feet to get back to level par with a tap-in birdie.
McIlroy then went to one-under for his round in holing a nine-footer for birdie at the par-4 12th hole and at the par-4 17th he moved to two-under for the round in superbly holing a curling 14-footer for a birdie ‘3’.
At the last, McIlroy admitted he ‘got lucky’ with his drive finding the trees and was lucky to not go out-of-bounds
He then made amends for his poor par finish from a day earlier in chipping his third shot from between two bunkers just short of the green to three-feet ahead of comfortably finding the bottom of the cup.
“The weather suspension seemed to help my round, and it can one of two ways, as I was over a birdie putt on the 10th hole when they blew the horn and at that stage I was even par and sort of in neutral, so the delay was nice for me to reset and give myself a goal of playing the nine holes in three-under par and I was able to do that,” he said.
“So, it worked nicely for me and I played some better after the delay.”
McIlroy revealed he has been pleased with a decision to change his wedge play in recent weeks to go from three swings to two swings.
“What I have done with my wedges over the past three weeks is that I have gone from two swings to three swings and is to go with a goal and a three-quarter,” he said.
“I used to have a full and a three-quarter so now anything below a goal and a three-quarter I just try to go on feel and just eyeballing. It’s like going back to when I was a kid and didn’t have a yardage book and not knowing how far it was. It is amazing when you get onto the driving range and see the first fly and it’s amazing as you start hitting balls and start peppering that flag and not knowing how far it is.”
McIlroy now heads to the final two rounds not only looking to capture a second Tour Championship but also win for a third occasion in the final event of the PGA Tour year.
The only other occasion in McIlroy’s career he’s won three PGA Tour counting events in the one year was 2012 in winning The Open, the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship.
“I’ve played well the first two days to be seven-under par and if we were all starting at even par, and we’re not, that would be tied for the lead at the moment but it isn’t it,” he said.
“I know that there is a lower score in there. I am playing well and just need to keep it going over the next two days.”