McIlroy escapes horror show with sizzling 66 at Masters

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


Rory McIlroy recovered from a Friday the 13th nightmare start to his day and revived hopes of a Masters victory to complete a career Grand Slam.

McIlroy began with three bogeys in his first five holes in a restart of his darkness-halted opening round, but rebounded from a three-over par 75 with a sizzling second-round 66 at rain-softened Augusta National.

The 31-year-old from Northern Ireland, who needs only a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, stood on three-under par 141 after 36 holes thanks to a bogey-free afternoon fightback.

"That wasn't ideal and obviously wasn't what I was thinking of," McIlroy said. "I turned it around nicely and shot a good one, at least gave myself a chance going into the weekend."

While six adrift of the clubhouse leaders, fifth-ranked McIlroy was in danger of missing the cut after finishing round one on 75 after a miserable morning.

"I've been playing so good coming in here, and then I go into the first round and I shoot 75," McIlroy said.

"I'm like, 'Where the hell did that come from?'"

His day began in a bunker at the 10th hole that led to a bogey and more came at the par-5 13th, par-4 14th and par-3 16th after a lone birdie at 15.

Between rounds, McIlroy hit some 3-woods and 9-irons, desperately in search of his missing shotmaking skills.

"I knew it was in there. It was just a matter of just trusting a little more and being committed," he said.

McIlroy opened his second round with a birdie at 10, made another at the par-3 12th and reched level par with another birdie at the par-5 15th. He birdied the par-4 17th and the par-5 second and eighth holes to restore his hopes.

The four-time major champion has had to adjust to a course bearing little resemblance to the Augusta National he has become familiar with, partly due to the move from April due to the Covid-19 pandemic and partly due to the rains that have softened the layout to allow for record numbers of sub-par scorers.

"You sort of have to throw all that out the window this week because the course is playing completely different," McIlroy said.

"The greens are so much slower, so much softer, and because of that they can use some different pins we've never seen before, either. It's certainly a little different."

McIlroy began his spectacular second round off the same 10th tee when he hooked a shot left in 2011 while leading and went on to squander a chance for a wire-to-wire Masters win.

He won his next major start at the 2011 US Open and has no bad memories of the 10th tee lingering.

"It's nothing. It's a 3-wood and a 9-iron and hopefully a putt and move on to the 11th tee," McIlroy said.

"Since I've tried to add a little bit of distance, the course is playing much shorter and because of that you don't feel like you need to take quite as much on."