Rory McIlroy brilliantly rebounded in finding his comfort zone and boost his chances over the weekend rounds of the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in South Carolina.
The World No. 1 snatched six birdies and did not drop a shot on the alligator-infested Harbour Town course in a round of 65 for a five under par tally at Hilton Head.
American Webb Simpson posted a second straight 65 to grab the lead in the Euro 6.3m event at 12-under par and with the 34-year old father of five a shot clear of in-form Bryson DeChambeau who added a 64 to his opening 67.
Also, at 11-under par is Canadian Corey Conners with an eight under par best round of the day 63.
DeChambeau had finished one shot shy of making a play-off last week in Texas and once again most post-round talk focussed on the bulked-up 26-year old’s extra length off the tee.
“I’m extremely excited to showcase what I’m able to do this week with this added length because now I’m hitting — instead of hitting — for example, 17, I hitting 9-iron or 8-iron into that green, whereas last year it was 7-iron or 6-iron last year and the year before,” he said.
“So, it’s just a complete quantum shift for me that just allows me to go at things that I am usually not able to go at.”
McIlroy’s second day turnaround was more about holing less putts than the 33 he needed in round one. He rolled-in birdies at the second, fifth, ninth, 11th and then the longest putt of the five being 12-feet at 12.
McIlroy then jumped to six-under for the round holing a six-footer on 15 ahead of a super par save after having to chip out sideways from a waste bunker at 16 ahead of a pair of closing pars.
“It was a little more comfortable off the tee, put the ball in play a little more, and then once you do that around this golf course, you’re going to give yourself chances,” said McIlroy.
“The greens are small, and you’re not hitting very long shots into the green.
“So yes, just giving myself chances to hit iron shots within birdie range and was able to convert a few.
“I played the easier holes better — you know, birdied the three par 5s, birdied the 9th, picked off a couple more. So just a solid day.
“When I got myself out of position, I got myself back into position and relied on my short game to bail me out a few times on the back nine when I needed to, but overall just a much better day.
“I think, whenever you see — going out there this afternoon, I knew I needed at least 66.
“So, having a number in your head definitely focuses your mind, and you know what you need to do”.
Shane Lowry had chosen to remain in the States over the three-month COVID-19 lockdown and to be now sitting out the weekend for a second week in succession certainly was not in his return to the Tour plans.
Lowry failed to break 70 in his two rounds last week in Texas and shooting a three-over 74 on day one of the Heritage also put him quickly on the back foot.
Though the Open Champion dug deep on day two taking full advantage of Friday’s calm morning conditions to birdie his opening two holes thanks to putts of 12-feet at the first and then four-feet at the second.
Then at the par-5 fifth hole, Lowry found a fairway bunker but managed to get his second 163-yards further down the fairway and just 100-yards from the flag from where he got his third shot to seven feet and knocked-in a third birdie in five holes.
Lowry then improved his overnight place on the board by 60 spots and up to a tie for 74th when he found at the green at the par-3 seventh hole and rolled-in a 12-footer for birdie and move to four-under for his round.
Then for a second day running the birdies dried-up with Lowry posting 11 agonising straight pars.
What was more annoying for Lowry is that he hit all nine fairways over those 11 holes but couldn’t get his approach shots closer than eight-feet and that was at the 15th.
Joining Lowry with a second straight weekend off is Graeme McDowell.
McDowell reigned supreme in the 2013 RBC Heritage and like Lowry, a first round 75 was just a ‘bridge too far’ despite a second day 66.
He began day two with a first hole bogey and regrouped with birdies at the second, fifth and ninth holes.
G Mac dropped a shot at the 12th hole but stormed home with four birdies in his closing six holes and none better than down the last where he landed a 183-yard second shot to 16th feet for birdie.
Unfortunately, and in stark contrast to seven years ago, you could count on both hands how many were around the green to see McDowell’s putt drop.
Round Two Highlights