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'It was a grind': Rory McIlroy recovers from double-duff to stay in touch with leaders at Arnold Palmer Invitational

 

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Rory McIlroy had to fight to card a one over par 73.

Rory McIlroy had to fight to card a one over par 73.

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Rory McIlroy had to fight to card a one over par 73.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell struggled to build on their promising opening rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but both remain in contention heading into the weekend.

McIlroy is now two shots behind joint-leaders Tyrrell Hatton and Sung Kang, while McDowell is a further three back in a tie for 17th.

World number one McIlroy was unable to repeat his opening round 66 at Bay Hill, battling back from a double-bogey six to card a one-over par round of 73 that left him just two behind leaders Tyrrell Hatton and Sung Kang.

In thick rough on the right side of the eighth fairway, McIlroy duffed two shots, failing to escape the rough with either, and dropped to three over for his round, after bogeys at the second and seventh and a birdie at the sixth.

 

A bounceback birdie on the ninth helped to temper the damage and McIlroy did well to get round the back nine in one under par thanks to birdies at 12 and 17 and a drop shot at 15.

Combined, it was an eventful day featuring three bogeys, one double and four birdies.

"It was a grind," McIlroy told Sky Sports. "I think I made it more of a grind than I needed to. But yeah, it was tough. Conditions were tricky, greens are getting firm, the wind was out of a different direction today, so that made things a little interesting too.

"The conditions were a lot tougher than we got them yesterday morning.

"A lot of crosswinds. And then if you did miss fairways it's really tough with how firm these greens are to get it anywhere close.

"I made a couple of unforced errors on the seventh and the eighth hole but felt like I bounced back well after that to keep myself in the tournament.

"So obviously still a lot of golf left. The conditions are tough and I expect them to be tough for the rest of the weekend and it's going to be one of those tournaments where you just have to hang in there and hang around and take your chances when they present themselves.

"I think if I shoot two scores in the 60s and get myself to double digits under par, I think I'll have a really good chance."

McDowell, meanwhile, suffered on his back nine in tough morning conditions, carding a two-over 74 that left him just five shots behind. He turned in one-under after following a bogey at the 12th with birdies at the 14th and the 16th.

But he limped home in 39 on the tough front nine, dropping three shots in a row from the second before following a birdie four at the sixth with another bogey at the eighth.

On the European Tour, Spain's Jorge Campillo and England's Andy Sullivan shot six-under 66s to hit the front in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Cormac Sharvin made the two-under cut with a stroke to spare after making six birdies in a two-under 70 in Doha.

He was tied for 48th on two-under-par, but fellow Ulsterman Jonathan Caldwell (35) missed out by two shots after a 69.

Belfast Telegraph