The last time Rory McIlroy went bogey free at Quail Hollow he won the title. Five years later, the world No 1 hopes that a faultless scorecard in Friday’s second round helps lead to the same result.
McIlroy’s 67 was beautifully controlled and featured five birdies and 13 pars. At seven under he was only one behind the early leaders, Patrick Rodgers and Martin Flores. “That was pretty stress free,” the Ulsterman said.
It began with a 30-footer on his first (the 10th) and was soon followed up with a 10-footer on the 13th. There were further birdies on the 15th and the fifth (his 14th) as well as the eighth. However, there were missed putts from inside 10 feet on the 11th, the 14th and the seventh and the key to a second success in three weeks probably lies on the greens.
But thanks to a session with sometime putting coach Dave Stockton, McIlroy feels his stroke is much improved after last week’s eighth place at the Players. “Just having that little thought in my head of what Dave and I talked about freed me up a little bit,” McIlroy said.
“I’m not putting myself under that much stress. I’m making it good on myself. I drove the ball beautifully at TPC Sawgrass and I’ve continued to do that this week.”
Despite missing just four greens Friday, McIlroy said he would like to sharpen up his iron game before he tees up Saturday afternoon. He found greens, but wasn’t hitting the ball as close as he’d like.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better at staying patient. That’s probably one of the strengths of my game now,” McIlroy said. “It’s just knowing from experience what a good score is. If you’re putting yourself in position to score and it’s not happening, you know you’re not losing any ground on the field.
“The way I hit it today, I felt like I could have shot 63 or 64, but realizing 67 is still a good score and puts me in a great position going into the weekend.”
Rodgers is yet another American young gun with a reputation and they seem to coming at McIlroy thick and fast. But after outscoring world No 2 Jordan Spieth when playing with him in the opening two rounds at Sawgrass, McIlroy took the same bragging rights from Spieth’s Ryder Cup partner Patrick Reed, who shot a 74 to stand at four under.
At the Spanish Open at El Prat, Barcelona, the French rookie Edouard Espana took the halfway lead on seven under after a 69. But home favourite Miguel Ángel Jiménez raised most cheers when holing in one on the 160-yard eighth. The defending champion, who is six back, was awarded 288 bottles of beer for his achievement.