Rory 'cuts' it very fine
Staring at a second consecutive missed cut in a major, defending champion Rory McIlroy mounted a late charge yesterday that ensured him weekend action at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
McIlroy, desperate to regain his form after a nightmarish seven months, finished strongly with four birdies over his final seven holes to move comfortably above the projected cut line.
"It makes me feel good because maybe in the middle of the season or a couple of months ago I wouldn't have been standing up here. I would have been going home," McIlroy told reporters.
"It's good to be able to do that and fight back and makes you feel good about yourself going into the weekend."
McIlroy, a two-times major winner who missed the cut at last month's British Open, changed club manufacturers at the start of the season and, apart from a few flashes of brilliance, has been struggling to recapture his form.
The 24-year-old Irishman had a morale-boosting one-under-par 69 in Thursday's opening round and battled his way to a 71 yesterday that left him at even par for the tournament, four shots clear of the projected cut line.
McIlroy's day at rainy Oak Hill Country Club got off to a rough start as he three-putted for a bogey on the par-four 10th, his first hole of the day. A birdie at the par-four 14th got him back to level for the round, but he fell apart around the turn.
He found a greenside bunker at the 171-yard par-three 15th and went on to card a double-bogey after three-putting. Three consecutive bogeys from the 17th had him at five over for the day and four over for the tournament.
Meanwhile, Justin Rose has his sights set on a second major title in the space of just two months after a stunning second round at Oak Hill.
Starting from the 10th, Rose bogeyed his first two holes and struggled to the turn in 37 at a rain-drenched Oak Hill, but then stormed home in 29 with six birdies to complete a superb 66.
That left the 33-year-old six under par and one behind the clubhouse lead of playing partner Adam Scott, the Masters champion adding a 68 to his opening 65 despite the early starters getting by far the worst of the conditions.
"I sit here today really relishing the opportunity on the weekend to try and win another major with no hesitation, which there may have been a few years ago because you don't know how it's going to pan out or how you're going to deal with it," said Rose, who finished fourth in the British Open as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998, but then missed 21 cuts in a row after turning professional the next day.
"It's wonderful to be in this situation right now, talking about having done it, talking about feeling like you can win more, believing in yourself and not talking about how I hope it could happen this week. So I think that alone makes it easier.
"I take confidence and encouragement from the fact that I think Phil (Mickelson) was 33 when he won his first major. He is right now one of the greats of the game, I think, especially if he gets a US Open. He then goes down in an all-time, very short list (of players to win the career Grand Slam).
"It's motivating to know that you can still build that kind of career in your 30s. You understand how hard it is. There's great players who haven't been able to win a major, so I feel grateful to have the monkey off my back and be able to focus forward and look at each of them coming up as opportunities. I feel my game suits the tougher golf courses."
Speaking about his round, Rose – who won the US Open at Merion in June, but missed the cut in the Open at Muirfield – said: "It was definitely a round of two halves. I was just hanging on for dear life and then the rain stopped, I put on a fresh glove and you began to feel like you could get after the golf course.
"Obviously I got hot and kept rolling with it. Adam played some great golf the last couple of days and showed me that this course is playable and you can make some birdies. And when I got hot, I stayed with it."