Late birdie run saves McIlroy’s day, week at PGA
Was in danger of missing cut until birdies at four of last six holes
May 17, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy's new outlook on life and golf
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Rory McIlroy was 5 over for his first three holes and headed for a rare missed cut at the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
Then he found his range with the putter. After signing for a 40 on the tougher back nine, the reigning PLAYERS champion birdied holes 4, 5, 6 and 8 as he shot a front-nine 31 to almost certainly make the cut (71, 3 over total) with the afternoon wave still out on the course.
“I was just glad to see one ball go in the hole and I got going from there,” said McIlroy, twice a winner of the PGA Championship. “I obviously had a very bad start. I didn’t feel like I hit any bad shots; maybe bad decisions more than bad shots.”
McIlroy made putts of 13, 23, 22 and nearly 19 feet for his four late birdies. It was a welcome departure from his form the day before, when he tallied 35 putts, and a massive improvement from his atrocious start on the back nine early in his second round.
As has been the story for many others this week, McIlroy struggled as he opened with the brutal, par-4 10th. He lost his tee shot right, and his second shot went just 91 yards into the trouble left. By the time he finally got to the green, he had 10 feet remaining to save bogey, and missed.
“You go from the range and then you get in a car and you're not hitting another shot for another 25 minutes,” he said, echoing what a handful of others have said this week. “So, feel like you could warm up again, basically, so that first tee shot is a little challenging for sure.”
More right misses off the tee at 11 (bogey) and 12 (another double) completed the horrific start.
“I tried over every shot,” he said. “And I didn’t let my head get down. I grinded.”
With eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts coming in, McIlroy was among the pre-tournament picks to win this week. But until his last six holes Friday, he hadn’t looked comfortable at Bethpage. Part of that, he said, was the lies he’s gotten after his misses. Part has been the wind.
“I though we got it pretty windy this morning, and we got it pretty windy yesterday afternoon,” he said. “So, I'd say that in terms of the scoring between the two sides of the draw, I'd say ours was maybe a shot tougher. We'll see how that pans out at the end of the day.”
He started his comeback with a 3-foot birdie putt at the par-5 13th hole, but bogeyed 15. He made the turn and managed only pars at 1 and 2, and was tied for 120th place.
What was he playing for at that point?
“Pride,” McIlroy said. “Just pride. Just trying to play a good round of golf and try to get something that's close to the best out of myself. And, yeah, I don't like missing cuts. It's not something that I'm used to, fortunately, and I wanted to be around for the weekend.”
McIlroy, 30, is third in the FedExCup and fourth in the world.
“It's just a matter of not pressing too much,” he said, “and staying patient and letting the good golf sort of come through. Took a while today, but it eventually got here.”