The move was in the right direction at the Shell Houston Open, though lunch for Rory McIlroy would have been an uneasy diet of hope served with the prospect of disappointment. McIlroy shot a second-round 70 to enter the clubhouse bang on the projected cut mark of one under par.
There was none of the unevenness of the first day when McIlroy rescued a rusty outward nine with a much sharper routing homeward. It is all about what happens next for all the participants in Texas, no matter what they say in public.
With only 10 competitive rounds completed this year, McIlroy arrived in Houston hoping to make it 12 before the first major of the season at the Masters in a fortnight.
Starting at the 10th McIlroy posted six successive birdies before pumping some heat into the putter with a birdies at 16 and 17. A bogey at the second seriously threatened his participation across the weekend before a birdie at the par-five eighth, where he had rinsed his ball in the lake on the first day, at least eased digestion while he waited for the afternoon starters to determine his fate.
Of those, Lee Westwood, also starting his second round at the 10th, came out blazing with his new putter, carding a birdie to reach five under par. Westwood is seeking a first win since moving permanently to the United States last December.
On the European Tour, Germany's Marcel Siem kept up his charge towards Augusta with a second round 68 to take a three-shot lead into the weekend. Siem needs to win the Hassan Trophy to claim a place in the world top-50 and gain entry to the Masters for the first time.
"I am trying my best," Siem said. "It is a tournament I have always wanted to play and if I can keep calm and play the way that I have been for the first two days here then I have a chance. I actually hope the wind blows a little bit more because I actually enjoy the challenge of playing into the wind and it would also keep the guys behind me away from me because if there is no wind out there then people can go very low around this course."
England's 2011 winner David Horsey and Finland's Mikko Ilonen represent the greatest threat to Siem's Masters ambitions. Ilonen posted a 66, including a 60 foot eagle putt at the long 17th, to bring a first victory since 2007 into view.
Horsey flew out of the traps with four birdies in the opening five holes but a double-bogey at the par-three eighth briefly stole his momentum. Horsey clearly likes this course and was off again starting the back nine with successive. He added two more on the way in only to sign off with a bogey at 18.
"I am pleased overall and in a good position going into the weekend," Horsey said, enjoying a more benign day than the gusty morning he encountered on Thursday. "I think you do feed off the positive vibes when you come back to a place where you have won and that is certainly the case for me this week. I am coming into form at the right time and I have been playing good the last few weeks."Reuse content