McIlroy learning to be comfortable in the lead
August 08, 2014
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory McIlroy carded a 4-under 67 in the second round. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Rory McIlroy is in his happy place.
Through two rounds of the PGA Championship he is also in a familiar one: Atop the leaderboard.
McIlroy shot a scrappy 4-under 67 on a soggy Friday at Valhalla Golf Club, where he is 9 under heading to the weekend and halfway to winning his second straight major and fourth of his career.
"It's fun," the 25-year-old said. "It was a little more stressful today than it was yesterday, just because of some of the positions I put myself in on the course, having to get up-and-down a few times on that front nine, but the last month has been fun.
"When I'm playing like this, it's obviously very enjoyable, and you know, I can't wait to get back out on the course again tomorrow and do the same thing all over again."
Can you blame him?
McIlroy made four birdies, an eagle and just two bogeys Friday.
The first of the bogeys came on the par-4 12th hole -- his third of the day -- but McIlroy didn't let it get him down and bounced back quickly with a birdie on 13 and two holes later added another.
At the 18th, McIlroy's prodigious length came in handy as he reached the par 5 in two. He then poured in a 30-footer for eagle and was on his way.
Early Round 2 highlights from Rory McIlroy at PGA Championship
He bogeyed the second but put his foot down with two more birdies over his final three holes.
The only disappointment might have been not making eagle on the par-5 seventh after the reaching the green in two, but McIlroy sees nothing but positives in his game and is trying to get as much mileage out of it as he can.
"Mentally I'm in a really solid place in terms of not getting ahead of myself on the golf course," he said. "Staying in the present. Obviously my swing is technically in a good place at the minute. I'm confident, and I'm just on a good run."
Three weeks ago, he won his third career major and first Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. He followed it with a victory at Firestone for his first World Golf Championships title, returning to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings in the process.
McIlroy led the field in driving distance at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and is near the top again through two rounds of the PGA Championship. With every moon shot his belief only grows stronger.
"I think that's when my confidence grows," he said. "When I see good shots like that and when I see drives down the middle and tarring iron shots into the greens; that's the way I like to play golf."
Who wouldn't like doing that?
"That's the way I see myself as a player," McIlroy continued. "And that's the sort of golf that I play when I win."
There are still 36 holes to play but even playing partner Martin Kaymer couldn't help but be wowed, which is saying something considering how the German performed in his victories at THE PLAYERS Championship and U.S. Open.
"When he hits the driver that straight and that long and the short game is incredible, it's very difficult to beat him," Kaymer said. "You just have to respect how good he plays. There's nothing wrong with his game. He's definitely the best player in the world."
And he's only trying to get better.
After blowing a four-shot lead on the final day of the 2011 Masters, McIlroy admitted that he played too conservatively and tried to protect the lead. He vowed never to do it again.
That includes this week at Valhalla.
"I think I've had to learn to be a good frontrunner," he said. "I maybe wasn't quite comfortable in that position at the start of my career.
"If I'm two ahead going into the weekend here, I'm going to try to get three ahead; and if I'm three ahead, I'm going to try to get four ahead; and if I'm four ahead, I'm going to try to get five ahead. I'm just going to try to keep the pedal down and get as many ahead as possible. That is my mind-set whenever I'm leading the golf tournament."