World No 1 Rory McIlroy has said that all he needs to do is cut the “bad stuff” out of his game for a really low score at the Australian Open – after managing to par only five holes in a rollercoaster second round yesterday.
The Northern Irishman hit an eagle and six birdies but also carded six bogeys for a second successive two-under-par 69 at the Australian Golf Course, to finish the day a shot behind leader Greg Chalmers on four-under.
Adam Scott, one of several players wearing black ribbons after the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes, revived his tournament with a sparkling 66 to lie ninth, three shots off the pace.
Having hunted down Scott on the final day at Royal Sydney last year to lift the Stonehaven Cup, McIlroy knows he needs to be patient and he is convinced there is a low score out on the course for him.
He said: “Oh, definitely, I had six birdies and an eagle today. You eliminate the bad stuff and you turn that into a low score.
“I’ll try and limit the mistakes over the weekend and try and go a bit lower. I actually felt like I played much better than yesterday, I don’t quite feel the score reflected that.
“I’m very happy with my game and that’s a good sign going into the weekend.”
Admitting that the wind had fooled him a few times and that he had struggled with his wedge shots, McIlroy took reassurance from the fact that no other player had broken clear of the field.
He said: “Even when I did go back to even par for the tournament after the 13th, I felt I was still only four shots off the lead.
“The leaderboard’s quite bunched, so I’ll just try and stay as patient as possible. There’s still 36 holes of golf to go and as long as I’m within a few of the lead, it’s a really good position.”
McIlroy, 25, got a boost going into the back nine from a 35-foot snaking putt for a birdie at the ninth but his round really came alive with an eagle at the par-five 14th.
He laughed: “I got one par the last ten holes. It was nice that eagle on the 14th to cancel out the bogeys on 12 and 13 and then the way I finished makes me feel much better about my round.”
The finish was three birdies in the last four holes sandwiching a bogey at the 16th, the last shot picked up at the 18th after he got the ball out of a greenside bunker to within two feet of the pin.
Scott soared back into contention with a five-under par 66, claiming a course record that lasted little more than half an hour.
Down in the dumps after a three over start on Thursday, the Australian caught fire with an eagle at the par-five 14th and picked up three more shots on his way home in a blemish-free round.
Given the Australian Golf Club course was reconfigured into a par-71 layout for this tournament, Scott was clearly amused by being lauded for having shot the lowest round on it.
He said: “We had a good morning for it, so I had to take advantage just for the sake of getting back in the tournament.
“I guess it’s fun to shoot a course record. I’m pretty sure it might not hold up for the rest of the week but feels good anyway.”
He was correct on that point – American Jamie Lovemark was completing a round of 65 as the world No 3 was making his way back from the media tent to the clubhouse.
Still, Scott’s round had put him right back in the thick of things. The eagle came courtesy of a five-iron to the green which left him with a ten-foot-putt – a confirmation to the 34-year-old that he was not playing that badly despite the disappointing opening round.
He said: “Today didn’t start much better [than yesterday] to be honest, I was scrambling but I scrambled well and a couple of good shots at the 14th gave me an eagle and momentum’s on your side.
“I tried to keep that rolling today and I needed to because that was the only chance I had to be in touch with the lead.
“Sometimes you can say your game’s in good shape and it actually is even though the score doesn’t reflect that and I feel like I’m playing really well.”
Chalmers, twice a winner of his national open, snared his seventh birdie on the last green for a five-under-par 66 to edge ahead of a congested leading pack at five-under for the tournament.
However, the 41-year-old was not getting too carried away with his early lead, with McIlroy on his heels and Scott back in the reckoning.
He said: “I think it’s very early to be talking about winning given who’s right behind me and who’s playing very well.
“Very early to be thinking about what’s going to happen on Sunday night.”