There was plenty of good: three birdies in his first seven holes, and signs that his new putter might begin to cooperate. But then there was a bogey, and then another, and all of a sudden a spot on the leaderboard turned into a middling performance at Bethpage Black.
“It’s been a little bit like that. A little bit stop/start,” McIlroy said after a 2-under 69 that left him at 2 under for the week. “Just when I feel like I’m getting momentum, I sort of get stopped in my tracks a little bit.”
McIlroy was three shots off the clubhouse lead when his round ended, and as was the case in his last start at Baltusrol his results on the greens are holding him back. After switching this week to a mallet-style Scotty Cameron putter, McIlroy has missed five putts from inside 8 feet through 36 holes but has made only one putt from outside that distance, a 12-foot par save on No. 3 Friday.
While the results aren’t quite there yet, McIlroy reiterated comments from earlier in the week that when it comes to his putting overhaul, he’s in it for the long run.
“It’s getting there. I’m staying patient and working hard,” he said. “I’m trying to take a long-term view on things, especially what I’m trying to do on the greens. It’s all a process, and as long as I keep seeing tiny little improvements here and there each week, I’ll be happy.”