McIl­roy suf­fers birth­day blues

Woods shows fight­ing qual­i­ties dur­ing a sec­ond round of 73 McDow­ell finds him­self on early cut-line after tough front nine

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS - JOHN O’SUL­LI­VAN

It was more a case of the birth­day blues rather than cel­e­bra­tions as Rory McIl­roy fought an er­rant game dur­ing the sec­ond round of the Wells Fargo Cham­pi­onship at Quail Hol­low Golf Club, a tour­na­ment in which he made his break­through win on the PGA Tour some eight years ago.

The North­ern Ire­land golfer, who turned 29 on Fri­day, strug­gled with most facets on his game at var­i­ous points - he has a new put­ter in the bag this week - and this man­i­fested it­self in a cou­ple of bo­geys in the first five holes that saw him slip back to one un­der for the tour­na­ment.

He fi­nally en­joyed some pos­i­tive im­pe­tus on the ninth hole, crush­ing his drive 376-yards down the ninth fair­way, fir­ing his ap­proach to four-feet and hol­ing the birdie putt, to par­tially atone for his ear­lier mis­ad­ven­tures.

But no sooner had he in­jected mo­men­tum than ran up a dou­ble bo­gey at the 11th, a way­ward drive com­pounded by miss­ing the green and tak­ing four to get down. He bounced back im­me­di­ately with a birdie but then pulled his tee shot into the wa­ter at the drive­able par four, 13th coughing up an­other shot in the process to drop to level par.

The cut mark, a dot on the hori­zon at the start of the round was now a con­sid­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially given a fresh­en­ing breeze. He trailed the joint lead­ers Amer­i­cans Aaron Wise and Peter Mal­nati by six shots.

Tiger Woods demon­strated his fight­ing qual­i­ties when hol­ing a 12-foot birdie putt on the ninth, his fi­nal hole to re­move any doubt that he’d be around for the week­end. It was the only oc­ca­sion he beat reg­u­la­tion fig­ures in his round as once again he strug­gled with the put­ter, miss­ing five putts in­side eight feet en route to a 73 to go with an open­ing 71.

Woods, start­ing on the 10th, bo­geyed 11 and 14 to turn in two over par, and when he dropped an­other shot at the long par three, sixth, it looked like he’d miss the cut es­pe­cially when he missed a good op­por­tu­nity to birdie the par five, sev­enth. He’d pulled the ma­jor­ity of his putts left of the hole but fi­nally man­aged some respite when rolling in the birdie ef­fort on the ninth.

McDow­ell

Also on the early cut-line was North­ern Ire­land’s Graeme McDow­ell, who bat­tled hard to over­come a dis­ap­point­ing front nine that saw him three over for his round and the tour­na­ment at the turn. Hav­ing shot a level par, 71, on Thurs­day, he racked up a dou­ble bo­gey on the third and dropped fur­ther shots on the fifth and eighth with just a sin­gle birdie to try and off­set an er­rant game.

Three birdies in the first five holes - he had an­other bo­gey on the 11th - on the way home gave him a lit­tle lee­way but a bo­gey on the 17th, part of the clos­ing stretch of holes known as the ‘Green Mile’ meant he re­quired a par on the last, which he duly man­aged and will play the fi­nal two rounds.

Water­ford’s Sea­mus Power suf­fered a calamity at the 18th, his fi­nal hole when from the cen­tre of the fair­way he pulled his 173-yard sec­ond shot ap­proach into the stream to the left of the green from where he tried to ex­tri­cate his ball. He could only move it three yards and was left with a 49-foot putt for par.

It was a tall or­der and he had to set­tle for a bo­gey, a level par, 71, but more per­ti­nently a ner­vous wait to see whether his three over 36-hole to­tal would suf­fice to see him make the week­end. The in­di­ca­tions were promis­ing. It was a cruel blow for the Ir­ish­man who started the day on three over, dropped a shot on his way out but an ea­gle at the 10th and a birdie at the 15th - he bo­geyed 11 - gave him the chance of en­sur­ing a less anx­ious un­til that fi­nal blem­ish.

Shane Lowry was one un­der par for his round and two over for the tour­na­ment after 13-holes.

Rory McIl­roy pitches out of the bunker near the fifth green dur­ing the sec­ond round of at Quail Hol­low yes­ter­day

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