Rory McIlroy survives Masters cut by skin of his teeth
Rory McIlroy needed a nervy five-footer to stay in the Masters on Friday after a frustrating second round, but his chances of winning a first green jacket were badly dented.
The 24-year-old from Northern Ireland had two double bogeys at the fourth and 10th to thank for him reaching the 18th needing a par to stay at four over, just inside the cut.
His approach looked good, but failed to take the slope back down to the hole, as an identical shot from Brandt Snedeker had done some 30 minutes earlier.
That left him with a delicate, curling 25-footer that he nudged to five feet before knocking in to make sure of making the weekend.
But in a tie for 46th and standing 11 strokes behind leader Bubba Watson, it will take a titanic effort from the former world number one on Saturday just to get back into contention.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be the 10-shot rule that was going to come into play,” he said of the ruling that the top 50 players plus ties and all those within 10 strokes of the lead play at the weekend.
“So I didn’t know what that putt on the last was, to make the cut. But when I got into the scoring area and saw that I was in 46th place, it was a bit of a sigh of relief that I’m here for the weekend.”
There was frustration aplenty for McIlroy, who has had bad moments already in his young career over the unforgiving Georgia layout, notably in 2011 when he blew a four-shot lead in the final round.
On the tough par-three fourth, a wind switch overcooked his tee-shot and nearly clobbered defending champion Adam Scott, who was standing on the fifth tee.
His ball buried deep in a clump of trees next to a fence and he was forced to return to the tee and restart, eventually limping off with a double-bogey five.
Then on the par-five 13th, his good-looking second landed plumb on a sprinkler head and bounded up high into the air into a spread of azalea bushes. Another bogey followed.
“It was very frustrating,” he said. “I just really couldn’t get anything to go my way. I had a couple of really bad breaks on four and 13. Got a really massive wind switch on four. And then hitting the sprinkler on 13 to go up into the azaleas.
At 11 back off the lead, McIlroy would next have to set Masters history if he is to win his third major on Sunday evening.
The biggest 36-hole deficit to be erased at Augusta National to win was eight strokes, which Jack Burke overcame with rounds of 75 and 71 to beat Ken Ventura by one in 1956.
Asked if he thought it would be possible, McIlroy sounded doubtful.
“I don’t know. I mean I just want to go out there and try to get off to a fast start,” he said.
“Eleven shots back with two rounds to play is going to be nearly impossible to make up. So I’m trying to shoot two really low rounds and see where that puts me at the end of the week.”
Bizarrely, McIlroy, who was the last man to tee off on Friday, will be first for Saturday’s third round, playing with a marker.