Monday 21 October 2019

Rory survives rough start

McIlroy answers his critics as he makes cut with back-nine birdie blitz but still trails runaway leaders Koepka by 15 shots

Rory McIlroy plays out of the rough during the second round of the PGA Championship. Photo: Getty
Rory McIlroy plays out of the rough during the second round of the PGA Championship. Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy sent a clear message to the critics who accuse him of lacking true grit when he drew on his "pride" to claw his way inside the cut line at the US PGA.

The Holywood star birdied four of his final six holes to finish on three-over par and make the cut by one shot but he trailed runaway leader Brooks Koepka by 15 shots after the three-time Major win followed his 63 with a second round 65 to lead by seven shots.

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McIlroy double-bogeyed the 10th, three-putted the 11th and double-bogeyed the 12th to slide to seven-over for the championship after just three holes of his second round at Bethpage Black. He turned in a nightmarish 40, languishing in a tie for 123rd, before his putts suddenly began to drop. After making a 12-footer for birdie at the fourth, he made a 25-footer at the fifth, a 22-footer at the sixth and an 18-footer at the eighth, carding a one-over 71.

His chances of hunting down Koepka are slim but he had the satisfaction of giving the perfect response to stinging criticism from Nick Faldo, who dismissed his ability to grind it out.

Deflated

"He only likes to play when right in it or charging through - just hovering doesn't do it for him," said Faldo. "He gets a bit deflated."

Asked what inspired him to keep going when things looked hopeless, McIlroy said: "Pride. Just pride. Just trying to play a good round of golf and try to get something that's close to the best out of myself.

"I don't like missing cuts. It's not something that I'm used to fortunately, and I wanted to be around for the weekend. And at least if you're around for the weekend, you can go out there and maybe shoot a good one tomorrow and at least give yourself half a chance.

Brooks Koepka looks at ease at Bethpage Black. Photo: Getty
Brooks Koepka looks at ease at Bethpage Black. Photo: Getty

"If some had said to me coming off the 12th green, my third hole, you are going to shoot a better score than you did yesterday, I'd have gone, 'Yeah, ok'. So to play the last 15 holes in four-under par, it's an example of me trying hard and having some character and grit and determination and wanting to be here for the weekend.

"If I can go out tomorrow and shoot a good one and get under par, you never know, depending on how the conditions are. I don't feel I am carrying any sort of momentum. I just played a nice back nine to make it into the weekend."

Graeme McDowell shot a 72 to lead the Irish challenge on two-over and Shane Lowry fired a 69 to sneak in on the four-over cut mark.

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