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Golf: McIlroy pushes back pain

"YOU GOTTA Play Hurt," according to the sleeve of a novel by Dan Jenkins, scabrous doyen of America's golf-writing corps. The advice was duly heeded by Rory McIlroy, who endured sauna-like Georgia humidity with a bandaged arm and hefty dose of anti-inflammatories, while still contriving to shoot a 73.

It was a performance bionic in its resilience. Twenty-eight minutes before his 8.35am tee-off time, McIlroy still had not turned up on the driving range. The after-effects of his first-round travails at Atlanta Athletic Club, where he had hurt his wrist jamming a club against a tree root, were plainly lingering. But to the palpable relief of his early-morning cheerleaders, the US Open champion emerged with his tender right forearm swaddled almost as far as the elbow. Even Sergio Garcia looked concerned at the heavyduty strapping, yet our brave boy ploughed on.

McIlroy endears himself to the American crowds through the sheer impetuosity of youth. The specialist who conducted his MRI scan on Thursday laughed when she discovered her patient's name, explaining that her son had watched him at the course that afternoon. “He gave her a very bad autograph,” his manager Chubby Chandler chuckled. A few rolls of protective cloth and a packet of Aleve tablets proved sufficient to sustain McIlroy for another 18 arduous holes. He appeared far from satisfied with his three-over-par score, admitting he was hindered by the injury. “I'm worried about it, because I don't feel I can play to the best of my abilities. It definitely doesn't hurt as much as it did before. It felt stiff when I woke up, and during practice it was a little uncomfortable. It's always in the back of your mind.”

McIlroy's scan indicated he suffered strained tendons and flexor muscles, with some fluid buildup that impeded the arm's rotation. The signs of his struggle were manifest: for the intimidating teeshot at the 260- yard 15 th, his arm flew off the grip on the followthrough. Having recaptured some inspiration at the next, sinking a 20- footer for birdie, he found the sight of the lake at the 17th a test too far. Into the drink his ball sailed, setting up a triple-bogey that derailed any progress.

Darren Clarke, McIlroy's former mentor and companion on Friday, did little to help. Slumping to a miserable missed cut at 14 over par, Clarke looked thunderous. McIlroy roused himself on his second nine, registering a birdie at the sixth as he toiled to make the cut. But the vicissitudes of the greens enraged him. “It was very frustrating,” he conceded. “I gave myself a few chances, but I struggled. I just didn't putt very well at all.” McIlroy's proximity to the cutline ought not to arouse much concern. The one distraction for McIlroy is the issue of whether he should be playing at all. “If it wasn't a major, then I probably would have stopped,” McIlroy admitted.

True grit was at the heart of Pádraig Harrington’s performance at as he marched through the searing afternoon heat to a second-round 69 and into the weekend.

He left behind the foibles he had felt on the super-quick greens during Thursday’s 73, Harrington visibly growing in confidence with each passing hole of his second round.