Wednesday 23 August 2017

McIlroy struggles but Padraig Harrington stays in control

Martin Kaymer hits his second shot on the third hole during yesterday’s round at the BMW International Open. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Martin Kaymer hits his second shot on the third hole during yesterday’s round at the BMW International Open. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Rory McIlroy got that Friday feeling early in the second round of the Travelers Championship - and not in a good way.

The world No 3 is a multi-millionaire but he could not buy a birdie for 13 holes on a frustrating afternoon.

Spieth made his first visit to the Connecticut venue seeking to regroup after a tied-35 finish in the US Open at Erin Hills last week. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Spieth made his first visit to the Connecticut venue seeking to regroup after a tied-35 finish in the US Open at Erin Hills last week. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

McIlroy carded a 73 for level-par 140, although he at least had the consolation of making the cut.

Jordan Spieth had earlier set the clubhouse target at eight-under par with a 69, but McIlroy said after his round: "I'll just try to see what happens here. I hope the cut stays at even-par and I get another couple of competitive rounds."

By contrast, veteran Pádraig Harrington, 45, was the epitome of steadiness as he worked his way nicely around the par-70 TPC River Highlands lay-out in 69 for a five-under-par halfway total of 135.

For McIlroy fans, it looked as if he was playing a game called 'keep a birdie off your card' for so long that he flirted with the cut mark for much of the day.

On Thursday, he shot 67 over the River Highlands course in Connecticut, a round which McIlroy felt could have been even better if a few more putts had dropped.

But yesterday, he stalled in the doldrums for most of the round. Through nine holes he had eight pars and one bogey - a four on the par-three fifth - to turn in 36, one-over par for the day.

McIlroy looked to bomb his driver through the doglegs on the longer holes, but to no avail.

He made par on the 10th, then followed that with successive bogeys, reaching three-over for the day.

Hole 13, the only par-five on the back nine, illustrated the inconsistency of McIlroy who is well short of competitive sharpness as he played only his eighth tournament of 2017.

The Northern Irishman dumped his tee-shot into water, took a penalty drop, and promptly smashed a spectacular five-wood shot to 18 feet of the flagstick.

On in three, he got down in two to save his par.

Finally, McIlroy broke his birdie duck on the 14th but did it with another touch of drama.

He smashed his tee-shot all of 336 yards, leaving himself just 69 yards to the pin, but the wind seemed to spook him, and he amazingly left his lob wedge effort short.

But from 27 feet, using his putter from off the green, McIlroy managed to get the ball into the hole, leaving him two-over for the day.

He reduced that by a shot with a birdie three on the 15th, then missed the green on the par-three 16th, and that led to a bogey four.

He held his par on 17, but bogeyed the 18th after his foot slipped on his second shot for a 73 on the day and level-par 140 for the tournament.

Meanwhile, old stager Harrington, who like McIlroy, has had his season curtailed by injury, used all his experience to plot his way around the course.

Harrington's short game helped him to a 66 in round one, and yesterday he kept a steady hand on the tiller.

One bogey and one birdie out the outward half saw him turn in level-par 35.

Harrington holed from 12 feet to nick a birdie on the par-four twelfth, and held par through the next two holes to leave him one-under par with four holes to go. The Dubliner made no mistakes and got home safely with that 69 in the bag.

In Europe, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson both moved to within one shot of the lead at the halfway point in the BMW International Open as a two-under-par 70 for the Masters champion and a 69 for the Open champion elevated them to an eight-under total.

Joakim Lagergren of Sweden and Frenchman Joel Stalter were joint leaders on nine-under courtesy of a 66 and a 68 respectively and did well to stay in front.

Elsewhere, Gavin Moynihan of The Island was the only Irishman to make the cut in the Made in Denmark Challenge.

Moynihan shot 70 for two-under overall which was the cut mark. England's Steven Brown carded 65 to lead by two shots on 13-under.

Ireland's Stephanie Meadow filed a level-par 71 in the first round of the 54-hole Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Korea's Sung Hyung Park set the pace in the event with a 63.

BMW International Open

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Travelers Championship

Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.0pm

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