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Executive Sports Co on the US PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy makes hay in second round after rain
“In the previous two occasions McIlroy has opened majors with rounds of 67 or better he carried a trophy away on Sunday evening. A second round of 67 here, to add to Friday’s 66 and placing him at nine under par, merely tightened McIlroy’s grip on an event he won by eight strokes in 2012,” says Gaspari. He has seen his share of professional golf tournaments as his company is and elite ticket and hospitality provider for many of the world's top sporting events including The British Open, the Masters Tournament, The Super Bowl, and Formula One Racing.
The Northern Irishman even had the audacity to label elements of his second-round play as “scrappy” having found 11 greens in regulation. This is an indicator of McIlroy’s current touch; even the slightest of errors is causing him aggravation. In his last 10 competitive rounds McIlroy is a combined 41 under par.
Comparisons with Tiger Woods are inevitable. Woods in his prime could outscore his challengers when not exactly at the top of his game. That was precisely what McIlroy did during this second round. It is one of many reasons why he will secure a career major tally far in advance of its current level of three.
“I can’t control what other people do,” McIlroy said. “So do I expect to win? No. But do I expect to do the things that I know I can do and control? Yes. And I know that, if I do those well, there’s a good chance that I’ll win.”
One does not have be an arithmetical or meteorological genius to identify that, when a 100% chance of rain is forecast, it might be worth looking the umbrella out. And so it proved here, with the course subjected to a water deluge from the early hours of morning.
Play was delayed by 50 minutes; it was of serious credit to the condition of this major venue that it remained playable thereafter.
Valhalla was receptive enough before the Friday downpour. During and afterwards it played perfectly into the hands of the longest hitters in the draw. Step forward – and he did – McIlroy. Afterwards, and rightly, the 25-year-old admitted to annoyance that he might be regarded as a one-trick, soft-course pony.
“I don’t really like that I am getting that stereotype or tag,” said the world No1. “I feel like I’m more than a player who can win in soft conditions.”
McIlroy recorded five threes in his opening nine second-round holes. By the turn he had jumped two strokes ahead of an otherwise tightly packed field. There was a rare aberration at the 2nd, McIlroy’s 11th, where he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker for par. Birdies at the 7th and 9th – the former after he had annihilated the 594-yard par-five in two shots – offset the minor damage.
The one solemn look of McIlroy’s day appeared when it was put to him that a trauma in his personal life, namely the break-up of his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki, immediately preceded a stunning upturn in golfing fortunes. Typically McIlroy dealt with the issue head-on.
“I think it has happened to me for the better,” he said. “I’ve put a little bit more time into my golf and it has refocusedme in a way. Golf is not the only thing I have; I’ve got my family and my friends but I have just immersed myself in my game.”
It was to McIlroy’s credit that his play was again formidable in the company of Bubba Watson. The Masters champion has been in a curious mood all week but it regressed into the realms of the unacceptable. Watson spent his round cursing, whining and tossing clubs in the air.
McIlroy is a fine example to youngsters, which is one of his many attributes. Watson has not yet learned the relatively simple art of growing up; someone in high golfing office should possibly have a quiet word.
“I have complained after lot of shots before,” said McIlroy. “Everyone out here moans about something. It’s just part of it. I don’t really pay attention to my playing partners that much anyway.”
When McIlroy gives up golf, a career in the diplomatic service may await.
Henrik Stenson’s level-par round of 71 left him at five under par and with aspirations of spoiling another McIlroy party. Stenson would have been better placed but for a careless chip from little distance at all on the 16th which triggered a needless bogey.
“It’s pretty messy out there, it is soaking wet,” Stenson said. “The ball picks up a fair amount of mud at times.
“There’s still a lot of golf to be played. It’s a question of whether I can turn it up a notch. Today wasn’t a great day for me so I need to play better over the weekend.”