A LATE run of form by Rory McIlroy ensured that he closed his second round at the Houston Open temporarily safe from the cut, but that could still change by the time the second round ends.
The Northern Irishman carded birdies at the 15th and 16th holes for a second-round 70, leaving him on one under for the weekend. With the projected cut set at that score, McIlroy had been facing up to an early finish when he teed off at the 15th hole, but two timely birdies gave him a fighting chance of sparing his blushes.
As he signed his card he was nine shots behind leader Steve Wheatcroft – the American on 10 under without striking a ball today – and the victory he needs to regain the world No 1 spot he lost last week looks remote.
As a result, Tiger Woods is likely to start the Masters on top of the pile, although McIlroy should at least avoid the blow of missing the cut, assuming a lot of the players below him do not significantly improve.
The only man to make a move on the leader last night was England’s Brian Davis who shaved two shots off the par to move to seven under for the tournament, but still three behind Wheatcoft and one behind DA Points. Lee Westwood made a promising start with a first-hole birdie to move to five under, while Scott Stallings and Dustin Johnson rested on that score after rounds of three and two under respectively.
While McIlroy may have a wait to see if he misses the cut, one of his former Ryder Cup team-mates, Paul Casey, already knows his fate. The Englishman was seven over when he ended the day – 13 over for the tournament – and his hunt for form carries on.
Meanwhile, Marcel Siem maintained his three-shot lead at the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco after a four-under-par 68 in his second round to further boost his Masters push, while Scotland’s Craig Lee sits six off the lead in a tie for fifth.
Siem, who is hoping for a strong result at the Golf du Palais Royal in order to break into the world’s top 50 ahead of the qualification cut-off for Augusta, made seven birdies and three bogeys on his way to 12 under overall.
Pablo Larrazabal enjoyed the best round of the day, however, as he surged up the leaderboard with an eventful 64.
The Spaniard birdied his first three holes as well as the fifth, sixth and ninth but saw his score falter with birdies at the fourth and seventh holes. His back nine was a rather more sedate affair, although he still picked up another four shots to move to eight under overall.
Lee, Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Norway’s Andreas Harto were tied for fifth two shots further back, while Joost Luiten was on four under.