Rory McIlroy rediscovers magic on the road to recovery
Rory McIlroy silenced the doubters last night with a stunning six under par 65 at The Barclays outside New York to move to three under par and pile the pressure on the leaders.
McIlroy, who took his Major tally to four this season with victories in the Open and US PGA, struggled to a three over par 74 on Thursday but hit back in superb style last night in his first tournament since his triumph over a week ago at Valhalla.
"I played really well and hit a few nice shots," said the 25-year-old after last night's excellent effort, going on to explain how he ironed out his problems after Thursday's round.
"I went to the range and worked on a couple of things. After not touching a club for a week (after winning the US PGA) I felt a bit rusty. I got it back pretty quickly."
American Cameron Tringale and Australian Adam Scott continue to set the pace.
Expectant dad Graeme McDowell gave himself the chance to build-up a nest egg of precious Ryder Cup points this weekend with an adventurous second-round 68 at The Barclays, first of the PGA Tour's lucrative FedEx Cup play-offs.
McDowell, whose wife Kristin is due to give birth to their first child, a daughter, early next week, is determined to gather enough world points at Ridgewood Country Club to copper fasten his place among the top nine on Europe's Ryder Cup rankings who are guaranteed a place on Paul McGinley's team at Gleneagles next month.
The Portrush man is currently ninth on that list and with Stephen Gallacher expected to make a determined last-ditch effort to get onto the team in his homeland, McDowell must keep making birdies today and tomorrow to secure his place.
Gallacher shook off recent lethargy and propelled himself into contention at the Czech Masters yesterday with an impressive 67 at The Albatros Resort, and the Scot will have one more opportunity to clinch his place at the final counting event, next week's Italian Open.
McDowell is committed to making the Ryder Cup team under his own steam. "I don't want to start using my picks," he says, adding with a grin: "I'll use them for years to come." Solid logic underpins his determination.
After an impressive Ryder Cup debut, albeit on Nick Faldo's losing team in Valhalla, G-Mac showed he's precisely the right stuff for the most pressurised arena in golf by clinching victory for Europe at Celtic Manor in 2010 before sharing in the Miracle at Medinah two years ago.
So he and the talismanic Ian Poulter are assured a wild card if required. However, a pick brings psychological pressure as the recipient goes all out to justify his selection.
Although McIlroy dispelled any fears he might miss the cut by playing the front nine in three-under 32 yesterday, fellow Ulsterman McDowell did the opposite and made a slow start to his second round.
G-Mac bogeyed 11, his second hole, after short-siding himself badly in deep rough way to the right of the green, then had to wait a further six holes for his first birdie.
That breakthrough came courtesy of a 16-foot putt for his four at the par-five 17th.
Suddenly, McDowell was up and running. He holed from eight feet for another birdie at one, then potted a fabulous 24-footer to pick up his third shot in four holes at two.
With so many of the pins dangling precariously on the edge of greens, aggressive play inevitably courted trouble either in long grass or sand and McDowell made bogey out of the former at four and also the latter at seven.
In between, though, delightful birdies at five and six eased him to four-under, three shy of early clubhouse leaders Kevin Chapell (67), Brendon Todd (69) and Jim Furyk (69).
FedEx Cup holder Henrik Stenson looked the pick of the bunch at the top of the leaderboard after purring to six-under with a superlative 64. The Swede opened by sinking a 54-foot monster for birdie at 10 and thereafter appeared invincible on the greens as his tally of holed putts yesterday soared to 157 feet.
Meanwhile, Gareth Maybin made the cut by one shot at the Czech Masters in Prague after carding two level-par rounds of 72.
The 33-year-old from Ballyclare is tied for 65th place after his second round which included three birdies, a bogey and a double bogey.
Ryder Cup hopeful Jamie Donaldson leads on nine under, with Gregory Bourdy one shot behind and Gallacher seven under.
Ireland's James McGee defied cramp and missed opportunities to defeat Zhang Ze and qualify for the main draw of the US Open.