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Rory McIlroy digs in to make cut as Koepka seals history

 

Rough day: Rory McIlroy chips onto the 16th green yesterday
Rough day: Rory McIlroy chips onto the 16th green yesterday
Brooks Koepka

By Phil Casey

Defending champion Brooks Koepka continued to rip up the Bethpage Black Course and leave his rivals searching for inspiration at the US PGA Championship.

While Rory McIlroy was relieved to recover from an "horrendous" start to his second round and make the halfway cut, American Koepka maintained his stunning form to shoot a second round 65 to sit on 12 under par - recording the lowest 36-hole total in major championship history.

His closest rivals Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Matt Wallace and Luke List are a massive seven shots adrift on five under par.

Koepka said: "It doesn't matter what you did yesterday. I'm proud of the way I played. I had momentum in the round and I'm putting well. I'll keep doing what I'm doing and try to build a bigger lead."

Graeme McDowell made the cut on two over par but there was a big name casualty as Tiger Woods finished on five over - outside the projected cut of four over par.

Woods had a very difficult day, dropping shots on the 10th, 11th and 12th as he hit just one fairway out of possible 10 but a birdie at 13 gave him a fighting chance of making the cut.

The smile on his face, however, wasn't around for long after another bogey on the 14th and he couldn't produce late fireworks to stay for the weekend.

Tommy Fleetwood fell back to two under par while Justin Rose is on three under.

McIlroy was heading for an early exit after dropping five shots in his first three holes of the day to limp to the turn in 40, but the four-time major winner produced a hat-trick of birdies from the fourth and picked up another shot on the eighth.

The resulting 71 left McIlroy on the early projected cut of three over and with the Black Course posing a daunting test, almost certainly safely through to the weekend.

"I just needed to see one putt to go in, to see something hit the bottom of the hole and that was on the fourth," the 30-year-old said. "From there I started to play some good golf.

"I had an horrendous start, five over after three, but came back well and the goal after those three holes was to be here for the weekend and it looks like I have done that, which is nice."

Asked what kept him going after slumping to seven over par for the tournament, McIlroy added: "Pride. Just pride. Just trying to play a good round of golf and try to get something that's close to the best out of myself.

"And I don't like missing cuts. It's not something that I'm used to fortunately and I wanted to be around for the weekend. At least if you're around for the weekend you can go out there and maybe shoot a good one and at least give yourself half a chance.

"I was four over through three in Boston a couple of years ago and ended up winning the tournament, and that just sort of came back into my mind after I made that start. So in a way it's calming. I've been in this position before and I've been able to come back. Or you go back to Birkdale (the 2017 Open) a couple of years ago where I was five over through six and shot 71 and ended up with half a chance on the back nine that week.

"So it's not as if I haven't been in those positions before, it's just a matter of not pressing too much and staying patient and letting the good golf sort of come through. Took a while today, but it eventually got here." Graeme McDowell, aiming to build on his first round 70, suffered bogeys on the 15th and 18th after beginning on the back nine. Then a birdie on the fourth hole lifted him to one over par but a bogey on his last hole saw him finish on two over par.

Shane Lowry, at four over par, just made the weekend but Padraig Harrington (12 over) waved farewell to their challenge.

• Tournament officials are considering John Daly's request to use a buggy in this year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Daly had his application to use a buggy during this week's US PGA Championship approved under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because of a knee problem.

The 53-year-old is currently 1,848th in the world rankings but has a lifetime exemption in the US PGA following his 1991 triumph at Crooked Stick.

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