Masters 2015: Rory McIlroy has to dig deep to make the cut
Rory McIlroy’s bid to complete the career grand slam foundered on the brilliance of Jordan Spieth and his own struggles to get to grips with Augusta National.
Sensational Spieth added a 66 to his opening 64 to set a record halfway total for the Masters of 130 — and he leads by five shots from Charley Hoffman — but the world number one from Holywood had to fight back and banish fears he would miss the cut for the second year running.
Birdies on the 17th and 18th holes ensured McIlroy hit back to back 71s, leaving him two under par, 12 shots behind Spieth.
Three Ulstermen will now soldier on this weekend after Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke also made the cut on one over par.
It was a day of struggle for McIlroy right from the start of the round when he desperately needed to get off to a flyer following his first round one under par 71 which had left him seven off the pace set by American Jordan Spieth.
McIlroy was 12 shots off the pace before he even began his second round as Spieth added a 66 to his opening 64 to set a record halfway total for the Masters of 130. And things went from bad to worse for the world number one as he covered the front nine in 40 to leave himself worrying about making the cut for the second year running rather than contending for a first green jacket.
McIlroy bogeyed the first after finding a fairway bunker off the tee and although he bounced back with a birdie on the second, the 25-year-old bogeyed the fifth and seventh and ran up a double-bogey six on the ninth.
A birdie on the 10th at least stopped the rot and gave McIlroy a good chance of avoiding shooting a score of 77 or worse for the sixth year in succession in the year's first major championship.
The Ulsterman had a 13-foot putt on the first for par after sending his drive down the middle but hit a wayward second left of the green from only 143 yards.
McIlroy chipped on but could not hole out and dropped back to level par.
It took McIlroy and playing partner Phil Mickelson a mammoth 45 minutes to play the first two holes.
He fought back to one under, a nine-footer on the second doing the trick after escaping from a greenside bunker.
McIlroy sunk a five footer on three to save par.
McIlroy, though, was looking less and less likely to be wearing the Green Jacket.
The four-time major winner had a 20 footer for par on the fifth but was off target, short and off line.
That meant a bogey and back to even par which was a heavy price for smashing his second too far.
McIlroy managed to stray behind a tree on the par four seventh. He skittled one up towards the green but it was well short.
That was another stroke gone and he was a shot over par for the tournament.
A chance was wasted at the eighth when his tee shot on the eighth led to a left-to-right putt from about 30 feet for a birdie.
The putt was a nice read but not quite on the money and that was par.
He putted from off the green for birdie on nine but to no avail.
The 10th proved crucial for McIlroy's chances, knocking in a birdie to get back to two over.
Things were looking up for McIlroy when he tapped in for eagle at the 13th, taking him back to level.
But he bogied 14 to drop back to one over par, before hitting back with birdies at 15, 17 and 18 for a one under round of 71, and two under par total - 12 shots behind leader Spieth.
Both McIlroy's fellow Ulstermen, Graeme McDowell and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, made the cut, the duo both on one over par. McDowell fired a second round two-over-par 74.
"I'm pretty happy to make the cut and be here for the weekend," said the Portrush man.
"I sank some important birdies out there."
Clarke shot a one under 71 to secure his spot for the weekend.