Rory McIlroy has been saying, repeatedly, that his game is close to coming together. It’s still not quite there – but it looks closer by the round.
McIlroy made a 20-foot birdie putt on his final hole to shoot 2-under 70 on Friday at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The tournament host is at 7 under par and trails Masters champion Danny Willett (71) and Marc Warren (66) by one shot, with the afternoon wave setting out at The K Club in Straffan, Ireland.
This is the first time since 2012 that McIlroy has made the cut in this event. In his inaugural turn as host last year, he shot 80-71.
"It’s very nice to make the weekend. I usually don’t stand up here after a second day and say that I’m relieved to make the cut," McIlroy said. "Obviously more excited that I’m in with a chane to win the golf tournament."
Playing among the early groups, McIlroy and Willett began Round 2 on the 10th hole, with McIlroy a threesome in front.
Willett started the day with a two-stroke advantage and maintained a lead until McIlroy matched him at 7 under with a birdie at the par-5 fourth. About 15 minutes later, the landscape changed and McIlroy was three in arrears.
McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fifth, as Willett birdied Nos. 4 and 5. Willett moved to 9 under, McIlroy dropped to 6 under.
Warren, meanwhile, birdied three of his final four holes to finish at 8 under. The Scot has made only three cuts in nine prior European Tour starts this season.
After a 10-foot birdie miss at the seventh, McIlroy atoned by draining one from double that length on his closing hole. He finished his day with five birdies and three bogeys.
“It changed my mood a little bit," McIlroy said of his birdie at the ninth. "I was getting frustrated a little bit, especially at the end of my round. I felt like I was giving myself chances and I wasn’t converting, and anytime I did make a mistake I wasn’t saving par. To hole that birdie putt at the last was nice. It gives me a little bit of momentum going into the weekend.
"I’m making enough birdies. The birdies are there. I just need to limit the mistakes."
Willett had five birdies and four bogeys. The final dropped shot came at the par-4 seventh, when he barely cleared the green-guarding water and failed to get up and down. He did, however, get up and in for par on the last to maintain a share of the lead.