In the context of what had gone before, a birdie was cause for letting off flares. After three in four holes around the turn yesterday and an eagle at the last for a 68 Rory McIlroy was pledging a round of drinks in the Conway Farms clubhouse.
When he left the field of play on Friday night McIlroy had been filling in that old football joke attaching to the league’s bottom club – strongest by virtue of propping up the rest. Yep, McIlroy was stone cold last.
From there, two rounds of 59 would not have been enough to take McIlroy to the climax of the FedEx Play-Offs in Atlanta next week. Jim Furyk’s searing entry into the sub-60 club on Friday had cast McIlroy in a deeply unflattering light at an event he won a year ago. The Ulsterman’s halfway total at the BMW Championship in Chicago of 155, compiled with rounds of 78 and 77, is the highest of his career.
There was better news yesterday, reaching the turn in one under. A birdie-birdie start to the run for home was further embellishment of a card in desperate need of red ink. Ordinarily McIlory would have been on his bike, but since there is no cut this week in an already diminished 70-man field, he was forced to answer an early alarm call for a 7.10am start and confront his embarrassment head on.
“Everything sort of came easy last year,” McIlroy said “I’m working harder, hitting more balls, spending more time on the range because I’m searching for it. And that’s what’s so frustrating. But, the fact that I’m working hard and I’m not really getting much out of it, if I can keep patient and keep working hard, I’m sure it’ll turn around.” McIlroy’s eagle finish for a 68 was welcome balm. He has a four-week break after Chicago before resuming on the European Tour in Asia, time enough you hope for McIlroy to iron out the ripples in his brain as well as his game.
Furyk is only the sixth to card a 59 on the PGA Tour, a mark no-one has set in Europe. His second round was 13 shots better than his first and took him into a share of the lead with Brandt Snedeker on 11 under par.
He kept the nerves at bay over the closing holes by talking NFL with playing partner, Gary Woodland. “I thanked him after nine. I said I kind of needed that because I found myself pacing back and forth,” Furyk said.
“I noticed one of the wedges in his bag and we were just talking about wedges in general, because we both play Callaway equipment, and we started into the football. I was kind of smiling when I was over getting ready to hit my drive. I actually quit thinking about trying to shoot 59 there for a few minutes, which was a good thing.”