A wild second round saw Rory McIlroy move in and out of contention in the Bahamas, and he will ultimately start today’s third round four shots off the lead at the Hero World Challenge.
The Holywood ace, who held the lead after the first round, had moved himself back into contention after a rocky start when he birdied the 15th and 17th, but an earlier double bogey on the 14th and a dropped shot on his closing hole saw him finish with a one-under 71 which moved him onto seven under for the week but has him trailing Bryson DeChambeau at the halfway stage.
The big-hitting American rocketed to the top after a fantastic eight-under 64 in his second round, reaching 11 under and moving one stroke clear of Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Tony Finau.
Indeed, it is fitting that in the final event of the year, and only a week after the two faced off in ‘The Match’ series, the long-running rivalry between DeChambeau and Koepka could come to a fiery conclusion in Albany after the latter fired a second consecutive 67 to move to 10 under and into a three-way share of second.
It is a group that McIlroy could have been in but for a disappointing finish, a second double bogey of the week, this time coming on the par-four 14th — the same hole he had chipped-in for eagle only a day prior — coming after he birdied two of his first four holes on the back nine and then a bogey on his closing hole leaving him playing catch-up.
The 32-year-old looked to have put himself in a positive position towards the end of the round, bouncing back from the double with those birdies at 15 and 17, but his mindset will have changed after the frustrating finish.
His front nine hadn’t been any better, a level-par effort where he couldn’t maintain the good form he had shown in the latter half of his first round where a five-under inward nine had taken him top of the leaderboard after Thursday’s opening round.
A bogey on his opening hole immediately had McIlroy on the back foot and, although birdies on the third and seventh brought him under-par for the day, his par-five scoring cost him for the second day in a row.
He failed to birdie the sixth, but worse was to come at the ninth. Having double bogeyed it on Thursday, he went one stroke better yesterday, but it was still a disappointing bogey.
To his credit, McIlroy bounced back early on his back nine with birdies on the 11th and 13th, but that was just to precede a topsy-turvy finish that has the World No.8 needing quick improvement if he is to finish the year in winning fashion.
DeChambeau’s lead could have been even bigger than just one as he found a double bogey at the 16th in the midst of a back nine that featured six birdies in eight holes, but he still signed for the best round of the week, a 64, to lead at 11 under.
Organisers will be dreaming of a DeChambeau/Koepka battle down the stretch tomorrow after a 67 from the four-time Major champion took him to 10 under, but Finau and Race to Dubai and Open champion Morikawa will have something to say about that after both fired 66s to share second place.