The huge roar that greeted Rory McIlroy holing a testing par putt to make it to the weekend in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth said it all. Now the world No 2 is aiming to use the final two rounds in the European Tour’s flagship event to make sure he does himself justice alongside his dad, Gerry, in next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Scottish soil.
“I don’t want to let my dad down in the Dunhill,” he declared after showing his battling qualities to survive the cut right on the mark, having started the day outside the top 100 following a 76 before bouncing back with a gutsy three-under 69. “At least being here for the weekend will help me get ready for that.”
McIlroy had been flying in Thursday’s first round after picking up an eagle and birdie in the first four holes only to drop seven shots in a wretched run from the eighth. He said that alignment had been the problem and, though still not where he’d like it to be, he was happier with his game off the tee on day two in the $7 million event at the Surrey venue.
“I haven’t really done much for the last couple weeks, and then my alignment got off a little bit,” said the four-time major winner. “The more my alignment gets off, the more the club drops underneath the plane for me, and then the bigger the misses are each way. I’ll block it out to the right or turn it over too much to the left.
“I worked a good bit on that yesterday, when I probably hit balls for about two hours after I played and then I warmed up today for a good hour and 45 and felt like I made some good strides. Still a few loose ones but a little better. Yeah, a little bit of work to be done over the weekend, but I’m just glad that I’m here for it.”
On a sunny but testing day due to a wind swirling in the trees, McIlroy followed a birdie-2 at the 14th by chipping in for a 3 at the 16th before almost pushing his second out of bounds at the 18th then having to keep his nerve with that par putt. “I had to battle hard out there just to be here,” he said. “My golf for the first couple of days hasn’t been what I had expected, but I’m proud of myself for hanging in. If I can shoot seven-under tomorrow, get myself to minus six, you never know. But I need to play some better golf.”
Bidding for a second Rolex Series win of the season after his success in the Irish Open, Spaniard Jon Rahm shares the halfway lead with former Masters champion Danny Willett on 11-under, two shots ahead of another home hope Justin Rose, Sweden Henrik Stenson and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
“It’s a tournament we all want to win,” said world No 6 Rahm after finishing with an eagle from six feet as he added a 67 to an opening 66. “There’s a lot of history here and a lot of legends on the walls, so it would be great to join that great list of players.”
Willett, who made his second-round 65 by storming to the turn in 29, is happy to be playing pain-free again after a variety of ailments. “When you’re not moving great, you’re really trying to smile and put a brave face on. But the truth is I wasn’t enjoying it and I wasn’t playing well,” he said of a slump that saw him drop to 462nd in world after missing the cut in this event last year. “It’s now enjoyable to be playing and feeling good about yourself.”
Richie Ramsay, the last man into the field, led five Scots through to the weekend after finishing birdie-birdie for a 68 to sit joint-12th on five-under. “I’ve been working on what I call ‘project ten’, which is about trying to hole putts inside ten feet,” said the 36-year-old. “If I can be a little bit better inside ten feet it’s going to make a big difference to my scores. That was the difference today. I holed a lot from that ten-feet range. You knock those in and you can build a score. If you miss them, it gets away from you.”
Russell Knox is on four-under after signing for a 71. “Yesterday I was amazed with my score,” he said of an opening 69, “whereas today I probably should have finished better.” Bob MacIntyre also made it through safely on three-under, though, after being two-under for the day after 11, he was disappointed to see his “momentum stalled” by a lost ball at the par-5 12th.
Late in the day as the light was fading, Vic Open champion David Law birdied four of the last five holes for a 69 to make it on two-under, while Scott Jamieson scraped through on one-over after following his first-day 68 with a scrappy 77.