The man who plays mind games has had to put up with Bethpage Black messing with his head.
It’s going to take more than ten minutes of meditation, a whole evening of Headspace probably, for Rory McIlroy to digest what has come his way over the first two days of the PGA Championship.
The Northern Irishman revealed at the Masters how he used brain training to get himself in the right place mentally.
But no amount of mindfulness can convince him his near five-year major drought is coming to an end on Sunday.
McIlroy hit 15 greens in regulation and found himself two over par on day one – nine shots adrift of a 63 from Brooks Koepka that looked an inconceivable score in the run up to the tournament.
Day two summed up major McIlroy to a tee. After a double, bogey, double start the private plane was taxiing down the runway.
But an outward 40 gave way to an exceptional 31 as the 30-year-old birdied four of five holes on the front nine (his back) to creep in for the weekend.
He’d spoken all week of the importance of finding the fairways and then failed to do it with his very first shot on Thursday.
It was meant to be hard to hit 4- and 5-iron approaches into greens. Turns out it was difficult with a wedge too as he kicked off with a bogey.
More serious flaws soon revealed themselves. He didn’t hit it close enough on the greens and, when he did, he found himself with some makeable putts that just wouldn’t find the bottom of the cup.
They hit the hole, they grazed the edge, or they slipped off line. He was on his haunches, his face a mixture of anguish and bewilderment as read after read went wrong.
Day two was even more of a rollercoaster – an opening six arriving as he went from rough to rough on the 10th. It looked fatal after another six on the 12th but redemption arrived with a sumptuous spell of birdies at the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th.
Heating up, just in time.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 17, 2019
All very stressful. So if he’s got some soothing whale noises, he should put them on and drift away.
“Pride. Just pride,” he said of the fightback to get inside the cut line. “(It was) Just trying to play a good round of golf and try to get something that’s close to the best out of myself.
“And, yeah, I don’t like missing cuts. It’s not something that I’m used to fortunately, and I wanted to be around for the weekend.
“And at least if you’re around for the weekend, you can go out there and maybe shoot a good one tomorrow and at least give yourself half a chance.”
McIlroy’s going to have to beat up the Black like Brooks has done over the past two days if he’s going to play his way back into this tournament.
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