By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy is gaining
confidence. It's identifiable in the inflection of his voice.
It's visable by the way he's attacking the flag again.
McIlroy birdied three of his final four holes for a 5-under 65
on Friday to take the outright lead at 7 under at the midway point
of the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn. McIlroy hit his
share of huge drives and towering iron shots, looking more like the
player who won the U.S. Open last year at Congressional than the
one who had missed three straight cuts. "You know, it was a really,
really good round of golf out there today," said McIlroy, who also
eagled the par-5 third hole after hitting his second shot to 9
feet. "I saw a lot of positive signs with my ball-striking. Hit a
lot of good iron shots and drivers. So that was something that I
was really working on the last couple of weeks and feels like it's
coming together for me. So excited to be in this position going
into the week." McIlroy held a one-shot lead over J.B. Holmes (64),
first-round co-leader Jeff Maggert (68) and Kevin Stadler (65).
John Merrick (69), who shared the 18-hole lead with Maggert, Chad
Campbell (67) and Kevin Kisner (66) were only two shots back.
Holmes carded an outward 6-under 29 and is looking for his first
PGA TOUR win since 2008. He seems to be returning to form -- he had
a T13 last week at the Memorial Tournament presented by
Nationwide Insurance --
after undergoing brain surgery in September
"I just kind of hit everything -- I wasn't knocking pins down, but
I hit them in there pretty close," Holmes said. "Made a couple
6-footers, but I putted well. I was hitting it 15, 20 feet and
making some putts." McIlroy, meanwhile, still had room for
improvement. He bogeyed Nos. 12 and 13 and did miss some short
putts. He missed from 3 feet for par on 13 and also missed a 3
1/2-footer for eagle on 16 after his second shot settled just past
the hole. "Could have been even better," McIlroy said. "Could have
made eagle on 16, but, you know, to finish strong the way I did was
great and it gives me momentum going into tomorrow." McIlroy,
ranked eighth in FedExCup points, tallied four top-3 finishes in
his first five events on the PGA TOUR this season -- which included
a victory at The Honda Classic. He then missed cuts at THE PLAYERS,
BMW PGA Championship and the Memorial. But it appears those
struggles are behind him -- at least this week. "It's nice to see
my name on that part of the leaderboard," McIlroy said. "It's not
nice when you're struggling to make the cut on a Friday afternoon.
It was great. It's nice to be through to the weekend, obviously.
It's obviously even nicer to be leading and have a great chance."