CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After 229 holes of competitive golf the last three weeks, Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship was exactly what Rory McIlroy needed.
“It was pretty much stress-free,” said the world No. 1 following a second-round 67 that moved him to within one stroke of the early lead at Quail Hollow.
That’s not to say McIlroy was perfect on Day 2, but even when he did make a mistake good fortune and talent intervened to keep his card clean of any bogeys.
Shots like his tee ball at the 12th hole, his third hole of the day, and at No. 3, which both appeared headed left into the trees, rebounded off limbs and back into the fairway.
At the 16th hole, when he was “between clubs” and missed the green right, he recovered with a high-flying flop shot to 2 feet for par.
“I short-sided myself but there was a little bit of an apron or fairway to work with where I was trying to land the ball,” said McIlroy, who is in the middle of a five-event stretch that began with his victory at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and was followed by a tie for eighth last week at The Players. “Worked out well and it was great to see a par there.”
McIlroy – who won his first Tour event five years ago at Quail Hollow – began his day with a 29-footer for birdie at the 10th hole, added two more birdies (at Nos. 13 and 15) before the turn and closed with a 2-under 34 on his inward loop.
The Northern Irishman has been predictably sharp to begin this year, posting top-10 finishes at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Masters as well as a victory at the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic in February. But with that level of play comes increasingly high expectations, which McIlroy said he has gotten better at managing.
“I’ve actually gotten a lot better at staying patient,” he said. “It’s just knowing from experience what a good score is. I felt like I could have shot 63 or 64, but realizing 67 is still a good score and puts me in a great position going into the weekend.”