PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Through nine holes Friday, it seemed as if Rory McIlroy would be well-served to adjust his travel plans for this weekend.
McIlroy got off to a disastrous start during the second round of The Players Championship but rallied impressively, capping his round with a 13-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. His 2-over 74 – out in 42, home in 32 – was just enough, as the Ulsterman made the cut on the number at even-par 144.
“It’s funny, I feel very comfortable on the back nine here,” said McIlroy, who is now 7 under for the week on that side. “If I could only just figure out the front nine, I would be OK.”
McIlroy has been plagued by poor second-round scores of late, and his Round 2 scoring average over his last four starts dating back to Doral was 74.5 shots. Friday’s effort will do little to trim that figure, and he once again heads into the weekend facing a sizeable deficit.
“Seems like Friday afternoons aren’t really when I want to play,” he quipped.
As has often been the case in 2014, McIlroy compounded errors, this time during his outward half. He played holes 3-7 in 6 over and his 6-over 42 was the highest front-nine score of anyone in the field. He hit only two fairways and three greens in regulation across his first nine holes.
“I just feel like I see one bad shot, and then it turns into another and then another,” he said. “I just get into these little runs where I can’t seem to hit a solid shot. If I miss it, I miss it in the wrong spot.”
Despite the rough start, the 25-year-old rallied with four birdies across his final seven holes. He was satisfied with the turnaround after admittedly costing himself a “couple of shots” because of a negative attitude on the front nine.
“Really proud of myself, happy with myself that I was able to do it. I could have…I definitely could have thrown (it) in,” McIlroy said. “Walking off the eighth tee, I bent my 3-iron over my shoulders. It’s like a boomerang.”
McIlroy now finds himself in a familiar position heading into the weekend, having made the cut on the number for the third time in as many starts. In each of the last two instances, he has made the most of the opportunity, posting T-8 results at the Masters and the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I got off to a horrendous start at Quail Hollow last week on the front nine on Friday afternoon, and the same thing here,” he said. “It’s not the position I want to be in, battling back to make the cut, but at least I’m in for the weekend.”