US PGA Championship 2014: McIlroy shows full mettle by battling through the storm

World No 1 overcomes difficult conditions at Valhalla to keep on track for more major success at the US PGA

Valhalla

Old Trafford does not have a monopoly on filthy weather.

Valhalla was in the path of some big rain moving across the Bluegrass state yesterday making lakes of parts of the course and forcing a 50-minute suspension early in the day. 

You might think that a golfer born and bred in Northern Ireland might be well suited to a hosing, but no man deserves to walk through water pumping at Kentucky rates. This being America, of course, more rain falls in an hour than in a whole week in Belfast, at least so local testimony tells us. Thus it was a morning of umbrellas and waterproofs, and endless towelling of hands and grips.

Thankfully there are no squares to cover in golf and the fast-drying sub air systems in place at major courses in these parts are powerful enough to drain the Pacific. And when he finally emerged from his Goretex cocoon, McIlory showed why he remains the overwhelming favourite to lift the Wanamaker trophy tomorrow.

There is about McIlory a powerful calm these days. He has learned not to chase outcomes, nor to over react if they are not quite as he might like. And they certainly weren’t that at the start of a round in keeping with a morning cloaked in a kind of meteorological melancholy.

He was the only member of a marquee group that included Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer not to record a birdie on the opening hole, the par-5 tenth. Though that would have hurt him, he walked off the green two shots better than he did on Thursday, when he dropped a double bogey after a stupendous out of bounds to the left.

He fell back to four under with a bogey at the 12th, his par putt from eight feet, after finding the greenside trap, lipped out. It was beautifully struck but the break he saw wasn’t quite there, another early test of that iron mentality. 

The response was immediate, a 12-footer for birdie finding the centre of the cup at the 13th to take him back to five under par. A ten-footer for par at the 14th followed that to keep him there, and then he rolled in a 20-footer for birdie at the 15th.

By now the heavy rains that clobbered Louisville in the early hours had returned. At least the late start provided Bristol’s Chris Wood with more time to make the necessary wardrobe arrangements after the tear-up he experienced on day one.

Wood, who has yet to make the cut at this event in two attempts, made one of sorts when his trousers split all the way to his belt loops on his second hole on Thursday. Having left the waterproofs in his locker he was forced to cover up with a loaned pair from playing partner Johan Kok, not ideal since he is five inches shorter than the 6ft 6ins Wood.

Wood’s manager, Stuart Cage, eventually resolved the situation first by recovering the set of waterproofs then returning from the hotel with a replacement pair of trousers that held. Even so, Wood was taking no chances yesterday, posting a picture of himself leaving for the course with spares in his hands. 

“The most embarrassed I have ever been on the golf course,” Wood said. “It wasn’t just a little rip, it was 10 inches. Everybody was laughing at me.” An opening 66 was some compensation, though with trousers in one piece the second round did not start so well, a bogey, bogey opening his reward for playing with modesty intact. 

While the early starters were negotiating the worst of it, Ian Poulter spent his morning in a Twitter storm after British Airways bumped the family nanny out of business class, leaving Mrs P to look after the kids on her own for ten hours. Poor lamb.

“It looks like I'm being a stuck up nob. But what is wrong with getting what you have paid for. I ordered a steak. Sorry you can have tomato,” Poulter said, adding a second post of a golf ball with BA inked on it. “Byron the chef just said if you hit this down the first you might out drive Rory. Ha ha that’s funny.”

Not surprisingly there was little sympathy on Twitter for the domestic problems that sometimes snare the multi-millionaire golfer. This is, of course, familiar territory for Poulter, who likes to wear his wealth on his sleeve. “Thoughts with you at this dark time,” was typical of the kind of sympathy engendered.

It hadn’t yet been the imperious ball-striking round of day one, the weather made sure of that, but as soon as the latest pulse of rainfall had passed through McIlory opened his shoulders, piping a beauty down the par-5 18th. From there it was a straightforward business to find the green, less so to find the hole, but that is just what he did with his eagle putt, drained from fully 31 feet.

With that strike McIlory established a two shot lead on eight under par, enough to prompt the bookies to cut his odds for the final major of the season to evens despite only 27 holes being played. That is just the kind of madness from which he is so keen to distance himself. This is a beast of a course on sunny days. In filth like this it is a job just to stay afloat.

McIlory gave a shot back at the second, his 11th, after missing the fairway. At the third he was required to hole an eight-footer for par. At the fifth he was on the wrong side of providence in the greenside trap after his ball took a sharp deviation to the right. He got up and down, but this was a day when little came easy. 

If the mark of a great golfer is to score when not at his best, McIlory fulfilled the criterion with two birdies in his closing three holes, including a resounding finale from 16 feet. Take that.

Old Trafford does not have a monopoly on filthy weather. Valhalla was in the path of some big rain moving across the Bluegrass state yesterday making lakes of parts of the course and forcing a 50-minute suspension early in the day. 

You might think that a golfer born and bred in Northern Ireland might be well suited to a hosing, but no man deserves to walk through water pumping at Kentucky rates. This being America, of course, more rain falls in an hour than in a whole week in Belfast, at least so local testimony tells us. Thus it was a morning of umbrellas and waterproofs, and endless towelling of hands and grips.

Thankfully there are no squares to cover in golf and the fast-drying sub air systems in place at major courses in these parts are powerful enough to drain the Pacific. And when he finally emerged from his Goretex cocoon, McIlory showed why he remains the overwhelming favourite to lift the Wanamaker trophy tomorrow.

There is about McIlory a powerful calm these days. He has learned not to chase outcomes, nor to over react if they are not quite as he might like. And they certainly weren’t that at the start of a round in keeping with a morning cloaked in a kind of meteorological melancholy.

He was the only member of a marquee group that included Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer not to record a birdie on the opening hole, the par-5 tenth. Though that would have hurt him, he walked off the green two shots better than he did on Thursday, when he dropped a double bogey after a stupendous out of bounds to the left.

He fell back to four under with a bogey at the 12th, his par putt from eight feet, after finding the greenside trap, lipped out. It was beautifully struck but the break he saw wasn’t quite there, another early test of that iron mentality. 

The response was immediate, a 12-footer for birdie finding the centre of the cup at the 13th to take him back to five under par. A ten-footer for par at the 14th followed that to keep him there, and then he rolled in a 20-footer for birdie at the 15th.

By now the heavy rains that clobbered Louisville in the early hours had returned. At least the late start provided Bristol’s Chris Wood with more time to make the necessary wardrobe arrangements after the tear-up he experienced on day one.

Wood, who has yet to make the cut at this event in two attempts, made one of sorts when his trousers split all the way to his belt loops on his second hole on Thursday. Having left the waterproofs in his locker he was forced to cover up with a loaned pair from playing partner Johan Kok, not ideal since he is five inches shorter than the 6ft 6ins Wood.

Wood’s manager, Stuart Cage, eventually resolved the situation first by recovering the set of waterproofs then returning from the hotel with a replacement pair of trousers that held. Even so, Wood was taking no chances yesterday, posting a picture of himself leaving for the course with spares in his hands. 

“The most embarrassed I have ever been on the golf course,” Wood said. “It wasn’t just a little rip, it was 10 inches. Everybody was laughing at me.” An opening 66 was some compensation, though with trousers in one piece the second round did not start so well, a bogey, bogey opening his reward for playing with modesty intact. 

While the early starters were negotiating the worst of it, Ian Poulter spent his morning in a Twitter storm after British Airways bumped the family nanny out of business class, leaving Mrs P to look after the kids on her own for ten hours. Poor lamb.

“It looks like I'm being a stuck up nob. But what is wrong with getting what you have paid for. I ordered a steak. Sorry you can have tomato,” Poulter said, adding a second post of a golf ball with BA inked on it. “Byron the chef just said if you hit this down the first you might out drive Rory. Ha ha that’s funny.”

Not surprisingly there was little sympathy on Twitter for the domestic problems that sometimes snare the multi-millionaire golfer. This is, of course, familiar territory for Poulter, who likes to wear his wealth on his sleeve. “Thoughts with you at this dark time,” was typical of the kind of sympathy engendered.

It hadn’t yet been the imperious ball-striking round of day one, the weather made sure of that, but as soon as the latest pulse of rainfall had passed through McIlory opened his shoulders, piping a beauty down the par-5 18th. From there it was a straightforward business to find the green, less so to find the hole, but that is just what he did with his eagle putt, drained from fully 31 feet.

With that strike McIlory established a two shot lead on eight under par, enough to prompt the bookies to cut his odds for the final major of the season to evens despite only 27 holes being played. That is just the kind of madness from which he is so keen to distance himself. This is a beast of a course on sunny days. In filth like this it is a job just to stay afloat.

McIlory gave a shot back at the second, his 11th, after missing the fairway. At the third he was required to hole an eight-footer for par. At the fifth he was on the wrong side of providence in the greenside trap after his ball took a sharp deviation to the right. He got up and down, but this was a day when little came easy. 

If the mark of a great golfer is to score when not at his best, McIlory fulfilled the criterion with two birdies in his closing three holes, including a resounding finale from 16 feet. Take that.

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