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McIlroy battles back from nightmare start to finish just inside the cut at Bethpage

The four-time major winner picked up birdies in four of his final six holes finish his round+3.

Rory McIlroy looks set to take part in the weekend's action at Bethpage.
Rory McIlroy looks set to take part in the weekend's action at Bethpage.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

RORY MCILROY PLAYED himself firmly out of contention at the US PGA Championship, but a battling back nine looks set to see him take part in the weekend’s action at Bethpage Black.

The four-time major winner was in the clubhouse after his second round 71 on +3 and he’ll know the damage could have been a whole lot worse.

McIlroy was one of the morning’s back-nine starters and looked all but out of the weekend’s action when he began on a run of double-bogey, bogey, double-bogey to leave him +7 for the tournament. 

A birdie on the 13th stopped the rot, but he gave it right back with a dropped shot on the 15th and went around the turn in 40.

Needing to pick up four shots to be in with a chance of making Saturday’s action, the 30-year-old produced a run of three pars before he began chipping into the deficit.

A lengthy putt on the 4th kickstarted his revival after some impressive scrambling from the Northern Irishman.

Birdies again on the 5th and 6th left him with just a shot to make up to stay in the tournament and when his chance arrived on the 8th, he took with.

With a 20ft putt to bring him back to +3, McIlroy delivered to post inside the projected cutline.

PGA Championship Golf A difficult second round for Rory McIlroy at the PGA Championship. Source: Charles Krupa

Jordan Spieth, trying to complete a career Grand Slam despite a season of struggles, fired a four-under par 66 to take the early clubhouse today.

Spieth, without a top-20 result this year or a victory since the 2017 British Open, had a two-round total of 135, one shot ahead of US compatriots Dustin Johnson and Daniel Berger.

Confidence has been there,” Spieth said. “I figured if I stayed out of my own way, stick to one thought, (my game) was in good enough shape to contend.”

Spieth could become only the sixth golfer to win each of the four majors at least once, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. But he doesn’t expect that to create extra pressure.

“I haven’t been in contention since the (British) Open last year. If I put in some good work tomorrow I’ll be in contention on Sunday,” Spieth said.

At that point, it will be about winning the golf tournament. I imagine that will take pretty much most of my thoughts. But we’ll see.”

Spieth’s charge came before Koepka teed off. He is in a group with Woods and British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who were battling to make the cut after opening 72s.

The layout at Bethpage Black teased some hopefuls and tortured others but allowed no one to match Koepka’s seven-under par 63 course record from Thursday.

At the time of writing, Koepka continues to lead the way on -9, four shots clear of his compatriot.

You don’t expect Brooks to fall at all,” Spieth said. “I felt like I had to be within six or seven going into the weekend.”

Back-nine starter Spieth, the 2015 Masters and US Open champion, sank a 15-foot birdie putt at 11 but made bogeys at 15 and 16 after finding rough and deep weeds off the tee.

Spieth, ranked 39th, answered with a birdie putt at 17, sank another from 20 feet at the first, added another at four and made back-to-back birdies at seven and eight to seize second.

“The front nine is a little more gettable,” Spieth said. “I need to hit more fairways. Scrambled really well. Ball just needs to find as many fairways as DJ or Brooks.”

No. 1 Johnson pleased

World number one Johnson, whose only major title came at the 2016 US Open, reeled off five birdies in seven holes in one stretch.

“I’m pleased with the score and pleased with how I played,” said Johnson. “I did a really good job. Hit the ball well. Drove it good. Made some nice putts. Gave myself some good looks at birdies.

“I’m going to need to play the next two days the way I’ve played the first two days.”

Johnson could be overtaken atop the rankings by four rivals this week — Koepka, Woods, Justin Rose and McIlroy.

Woods, who won his 15th major title last month at the Masters to snap an 11-year major win drought, was one stroke under the cut line with hopes of clawing back the gap to Koepka.

Course ‘kicked my ass’

New Zealand’s Danny Lee, whose opening 64 left him second to Koepka, battled to a 74. The South Korean-born Kiwi was in the first group off the back nine and double bogeys at 15 and 16 left him six over for the day, but four birdies took him into a share of sixth on two-under with South Korea’s Kang Sung.

“Bethpage kicked my ass on the back nine,” Lee said. “Every single fricking hole on the back nine was super hard. I didn’t have any other option than suck it up and keep playing.”

His early wake-up call didn’t help.

“It was actually pretty brutal,” Lee said. “I couldn’t get up early enough. I should have set up a tent on the putting green.”

Among the other Irish starters, Lowry is currently outside the cutline on +4 after playing his opening 13 holes in +1.

Padraig Harrington followed yesterday’s 75 with a second round 77 to finish on +7.

Graeme McDowell is still in with a chance to advance to the weekend’s action, he’s +2 through 12 holes.

With reporting from © – AFP 2019

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