BMW PGA: Rory McIlroy relieved to survive cut after valiant fightback at Wentworth
By Keith Jackson at Wentworth
Last Updated: 21/09/19 8:40am
Rory McIlroy insisted he still has a chance of defying the odds and landing a second BMW PGA Championship title after scraping into the weekend with nothing to spare.
McIlroy was three under after five holes in his first round before making a series of mistakes and crashing to a 76, and he declined to speak to the media afterwards as he headed to the range to attempt to correct an alignment fault in his swing.
And the two-hour practice session led to a much-improved second round, although he still endured a few anxious moments before holing a four-foot putt on the last to save par and return a 69, which was just enough to survive the halfway cut on one over par.
Knowing he needed to break 70 at the least to have a chance to extend his tournament, McIlroy got off to another bright start with birdies at the first and fourth, only to give one back after a wayward tee shot into the fifth.
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McIlroy was finding birdies hard to come by as he put together a run of eight straight pars, but a delightful tee-shot to three feet at the 14th which he converted for a two, and he chipped in from the rear fringe for a priceless birdie on the 16th that got him inside the projected cut line.
He endured scares at both 17 and 18 when he carved ambitious second shots right of the target at both par-fives and, after comfortably saving par at 17, his final hole was anything but straight-forward.
A blocked long iron flirted with the out-of-bounds on the right, from where he played a cautious pitch that ran 40 feet past the flag before his first putt pulled up four-feet short. But he nailed the second to scrape into the weekend with nothing to spare, although he will start his third round hours earlier than planned and with 12 shots to make up on the leaders.
"I'm still not quite feeling in sync with everything, but I battled well out there," he said afterwards. "Conditions were obviously a lot trickier out there today than they were yesterday. I definitely didn't think I was going to get myself into position where I didn't need to birdie either one of the par-fives coming in, but a nice two on 14 and a nice chip-in on 16.
"I just battled away and kept my head down and I'm glad to be here for the weekend. I'll be out early and obviously the leaders are way up there, but the conditions are going to be tricky. The course is getting firm, so if I can shoot seven-under and get myself to minus six, you never know.
"I guess I can try to be a little more aggressive, but I need to play better if I want to be more aggressive. Hopefully I'll have a good warm-up and hit the ball a bit better and I'll try to make as many birdies as I can. I'm a long way back, but if I can shoot six or seven under, I might still be in it."
McIlroy admitted on Wednesday that he had to "drag myself off the couch" and return to practice after taking a break following seven tournaments in eight weeks, and he believes his alignment problems were a result of that.
"I haven't really done much for the last couple weeks, and then my alignment got off a little bit and the more my alignment gets off, then the more the club drops underneath the plane for me, and then the bigger the misses are each way," he added.
"I'll block it out to the right or turn it over too much to the left. So I worked a good bit on that yesterday and felt like I made some good strides, but it's obviously different trying to do it on range than trying to do it on the golf course.
"There's a little bit of work to be done over the weekend, but I'm just glad that I'm here for it. I'm proud of myself for hanging in, but my golf over the first couple days hasn't been what I would have expected."