Saturday 16 December 2017

Rusty Rory still has Day in his sights

William S Callahan

RORY McIlroy has great expectations of himself but had to play a game of patience in the $8.25m BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Illinois yesterday.

McIlroy, making only his third competitive appearance since he fractured an ankle ligament in early July, mixed some impressive driving and iron play with a couple of lapses on the greens that left him frustrated.

Many other pros in the tournament would be delighted with 68, 65 for nine under par going into the weekend but McIlroy knew it could have been even better.

"I feel like I've left a lot of shots out there the last couple of days," he said. "The course is obviously playing quite easy. You can see that from the scores out there.

"I feel like I played well today. No bogeys on the card, but I'm disappointed at how I finished on the last four holes and not picking any shots up there. I wish I could have got to double digits under par.

"But if I go really low over the weekend, I have a chance."

McIlroy began his second round on three under par, seven behind leader Jason Day, and climbed to nine under par with a great chance to extend that to seven under as he faced a three footer for birdie on the par-four 16th hole.

Inexplicably, McIlroy gunned his putt six feet past the cup, and had to steady himself before slotting the return putt safely home for a par.

On the 195 yard par-three 17th, his birdie attempt from 12 feet slid just past of the hole, and the World No 1's expression said it all.

His mood was not improved by a five-wood second shot to the par-five 18th which he carved right and into a water hazard.

He dropped his ball for a penalty shot in thick rough, 30 yards from the flag, but pitched beautifully to inside two feet and saved his par.

"I put myself out of position there. I let it go out to the right a little bit off the hanging lie, but it was nice to get up and down and go bogey-free for the day," he said.


Earlier, McIlroy was buoyed up by his shot of the day, a 42-yard pitch following a 310-yard drive for an eagle two on the seventh hole.

"This was nice. I took advantage of hitting a good drive, and the pitch went in a little speedy, but it was nice to see one drop and it kick-started the round a little bit," he said.

The going was soft following a storm on Thursday evening and more rain early yesterday morning, so lift, clean and place was the order of the day.

Day, meanwhile, is mining a hugely rich vein of form that saw him also win The Barclays, the first of the four FedEx Cup play-offs.

A career best 61 in the first round was a foretaste of things to come, as Day kept the birdie-fest rolling along in round two.

He had five of them reeled off after just 12 holes to take him to 15 under for the tournament.

And then, hole 13 proved unlucky as Day took a bogey five after finding a bunker with his second shot.

No problem. The Aussie recovered with birdies on the next two holes and went on to eagle the 18th for 63 and 18 under.

Jordan Spieth's second ace of his career on Thursday was a boost as he sought to find his best form following missed cuts in his last two events.

"I'm not extremely confident in putting right now," said Spieth.

Despite that, he remains a strong contender at 11 under par as he also eagled the 18th.

Daniel Berger and Brendon Todd, both of the USA, were Day's closest challengers at 13 under.

On the European Tour, Peter Lawrie was the best of the Irish in the Italian Open at Golf Club Milano.

Lawrie's 68, 67 for nine under par left him just four shots off the lead held jointly by Jens Fahrbring (Sweden) and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard who shot 64 and 65 respectively and set the pace at 13 under.

Padraig Harrington (70), Darren Clarke (70) and Paul McGinley (72) all qualified on the cut line at four under par.

Rookie pro Gavin Moynihan (73, 76) ended a tumultuous week following the Walker Cup win and turning pro with a valuable learning experience, albeit that he missed the cut on five over par.

Also going home early were Simon Thornton (-1), Kevin Phelan (+1) and Damien McGrane (+2).

Italian Open

Live, Sky Sports 4 (red button), 12.0pm

Solheim Cup

Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.30am

BMW Championship

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0pm

Irish Independent

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