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
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.
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