Just when it appeared as if Rory McIlroy's recent serenity had vanished into the thin Rocky Mountains air, the World No 1 rallied with three sparkling birdies down the stretch in his second round 67 at The BMW.
McIlroy went into the weekend in Denver Colorado tied third with Billy Horschel on six-under, two shy of the lead set by Sergio Garcia with a flamboyant 64.
The agenda seemed to be set for both Europeans early-on yesterday. In Garcia's case it was when he holed-out from a greenside bunker for birdie at the par four second. This was followed six holes later by a spectacular eagle two when he hit a glorious 125 yards wedge into the cup.
Even when Garcia erred, clumsily hitting a long-iron approach into the water shy of the green at 17, he pitched brilliantly from the drop zone to three feet and putted for his par.
Then the 34-year-old showed the renewed strength of his resolve and composure when forced to back-off a 10-foot putt from the fringe at 18 by a loud 'clunk' from the bleachers. He simply refocused and stoutly holed out for his fifth birdie of the day.
If McIlroy was frustrated by two bogeys in the final three holes Thursday's 67, which gave him a share of the first round lead, there was further angst for the 25-year-old at the first yesterday.
After sparking memories of Arnie Palmer's sensational US Open victory at Cherry Hills in 1960 by driving the green with his 324-yard tee shot, McIlroy then three-putted from around 20 feet for an infuriating par. The birdie attempt was no more than four feet. Ouch!
Though he holed from 10 feet for birdie at two, McIlroy then made bogey at the treacherous fifth after his tee shot clipped a tree branch and fell into bottomless rough.
If at first, the Holywood star struggled to find the pace of the greens, he then found it difficult to gauge the range of his irons in the thin air.
Yet even though he'd to wait another 10 holes for a birdie, McIlroy isn't as easily held hostage to fortune these days and, after holing a 27-footer for a sweet two at 15, he followed-up with another long range effort at the next.
The complexion of his day clearly had changed entirely when his drive at 17 clipped off a tree and back into the fairway and McIlroy took full advantage by making a birdie four.
Garcia led Ryan Palmer by one in the clubhouse after an impressive 64 by the American.
Graeme McDowell likely will have to wait at least another year to play in his first Tour Championship after a second round 72 left him wallowing well down the leaderboard on five-over. He needs a top-five finish tomorrow to get into the 30-man field in Atlanta next week.
Scotland's Richie Ramsay led into the weekend at the Omega European Masters but should sleep with one eye open in Crans following a mischievous threat from room-mate Gareth Maybin.
Ulsterman Maybin, lying just three shy of Ramsay lead in a tie for fifth on nine-under alongside Offaly ace Shane Lowry, joked: "I'm rooming with Richie this week so maybe I'll change the alarm clock on him in the morning or something."
Ballyclare man Maybin (33) played sweetly and finished neatly with his long putter as he followed up Thursday's 64 with a three-under 67 yesterday to propel himself into contention for a first European Tour victory to go with his 2008 Challenge Tour success in China.
Lowry, who banished memories of a lethargic first four months of the season by surging into second behind McIlroy at Europe's showpiece BMW PGA Championship, once again showed class during yesterday's 65..
If the 27-year-old Clara native keeps hitting the ball the way he did to get onto the green in two at the uphill, 633-yard ninth, he can claim a third Tour title tomorrow to go with his 2009 victory as an amateur at the Irish Open and that first win as a pro in the 2012 Portugal Masters.
Lowry missed the eight-foot eagle putt at nine but picked up his fifth birdie to turn in three-under before picking his way cannily around a difficult series of pin placements on the back nine, creating three more birdies with some pinpoint iron play. Yet, when necessary, he also showed a deft touch around the greens.
Lowry played with Ryder Cup-bound Jamie Donaldson, whose confidence is soaring after his recent Czech Masters win, as he showed during a fabulous 64 that moved him within one of Ramsay (66).
As Michael Hoey steamed to seven-under on the back of a hard-working 68, Padraig Harrington appeared once again drawn to the Friday cut line like a moth to a flame when he made four bogeys on his first seven holes.
However, the Dubliner defied a queasy putter to pick up three shots on his way to the finish. He made the weekend easily on three-under par with a one-over 71.
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Ireland beat England 3-2 in Poland yesterday to edge into the final of the European Senior Men’sTeam Championship.They will now meet Sweden as they seek back-to-back title triumphs.
Appropiatley, the hero of the day was Maurice Kelly, who won three of the last four holes to pip Andrew Stracey on the final green.
When English pair Alan Mew and Anthony McLure squeezed home on the 19th hole in their foursomes match against Tom Cleary and Michael Quirke after never having been behind it looked grim for the Irish as Kelly was two down with four holes to play.
But then Kelly won 15,16 and 17 to go ahead for the first time and held on at the last for a famous success.
Portmarnock’s former European Champion Adrian Morrow won the first two holes against Stephen East and powered to a 3 and 2 triumph.
Arthur Pierse eased to a 4 and 3 win over Richard Latham meaning that John Mitchell’s defeat by Clive Jones was of only academic interest.
Meanwhile Ireland were beaten 4.5-0.5 by France in the semi-finals of the European Senior Women’s Team Championship in Austria. The French will now play England in the final.