Tuesday 12 December 2017

McIlroy chugs his way into weekend

Rory McIlroy plays from the rough on the 10th hole during the second round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Photo: Getty
Rory McIlroy plays from the rough on the 10th hole during the second round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Photo: Getty

William S Callahan

Rory McIlroy failed to fire on all cylinders in round two of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge yesterday but did enough to claw his way into the weekend.

At one-over for the tournament after a 71, the world No 3 needs a big improvement if he is to force his way into contention.

McIlroy admitted as much afterwards to the Golf Channel.

"It's been a little bit of a struggle which I didn't really anticipate coming in here," he said. "I was hitting the ball well in practice, putting it good, just haven't been able to piece it together.

"At least I'm here for the weekend and I have two more days to try and improve on what I've done so far."

Following his opening 74, McIlroy did some work on the range trying to sort out some kinks in his swing.

"I felt I hit it a little bit better today. It's still not quite where I want it, but at least it was better," he said.

"Usually I'm a good fairway woods player but the fairway woods have been terrible this week.

"I know what I'm doing. It's just a matter of trying to iron that out. I'm just trying to work on a few things and trying to improve over the weekend."

Huge galleries followed the Northern Irishman, who was in action alongside Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders and PGA Tour stalwart Brandt Snedeker in one of the morning's marquee groups.

The fans came to see fireworks from McIlroy.

Instead they witnessed a performance that resembled a Rolls Royce with dirty petrol in the tank chugging along with its driver hoping the toxic gases in the engine would eventually be blown out the exhaust pipe.

Perhaps that is understandable, as this tournament marks only the third event of the year for the four-time Major champion.

Still, class will out, albeit infrequently in McIlroy's case yesterday.

He started at the 10th tee and hit the speed bumps early in his round, bogeying his first two holes.

Then came some relief with a birdie four at the 12th, his third, where he pitched his third shot to four feet and holed the putt.

McIlroy got back on track with three pars on the trot before the highlight of his day arrived at the par-five 16th, where he negotiated the 511-yard trip in just three shots.

Was that the sound of an engine purring into the high revs?

Yes, but only briefly as McIlroy dumped his tee shot at the par-three 17th and racked up an embarrassing double-bogey five.

A quick bounce-back with birdie on the 18th brought an end to an inconsistent display on the front nine, although McIlroy did manage to turn in level par for the day.

Cool

The putter remained cool despite the rising Florida temperatures, but eight pars and a birdie four on the fourth represented a solid back nine for McIlroy.

Soon after McIlroy finished, America's Charley Hoffman set the clubhouse lead at 10 under with a 66 crafted with accurate play off the tee and impressive work on the greens - he took only 26 putts.

European Ryder Cup player Matthew Fitzpatrick took up the baton on behalf of the international players, shooting 69 to lie second on eight under par before the afternoon wave of players came out to play.

Fitzpatrick (22) said the key to his staying in touch was his scrambling, adding: "Everything's coming together slowly.

"I've just got to keep on top of things going into the weekend and hopefully push on.

Graeme McDowell had his moments of frustration but finished on a positive note with two birdies on his final four holes for 71 and one-under overall.

Arnold Palmer Invitational
Live, Sky Sports 4, 4.30pm

Irish Independent

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