JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Will he or won’t he? Whether Rory McIlroy would make it to the 10th tee for the second round of the PGA Championship was answered early Friday morning, when he pronounced himself fit to play after hitting a few balls on the range.
The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland shot even-par 70 in Round 1 despite straining a tendon in his right wrist while playing a shot from the trees on No. 3 at Atlanta Athletic Club. He hit a tree root just after impact, he iced his wrist after every shot, and he had his hand, wrist and forearm taped like a boxer preparing to enter the ring. During the round, McIlroy was assured by a physiotherapist that he would incur no further damage to his wrist if he continued to play.
McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion, is seven shots back of Steve Stricker, who tees off at 2:15 p.m. EDT. In Round 1, Stricker shot a competitive course record and became the 23rd player to shoot 63 in a major championship.
We will be updating the blog every five to 10 minutes, so check back often to see how McIlroy is holding up. Click on the hole links to see a fly-over of the hole.
For complete details on his amazing and gritty round on Thursday, read Jeff Babineau’s commentary here.
Rory is the only player in his group to put his drive in the fairway and puts his approach shot on the back of the green and has a realistic shot at birdie.
A bad read on his birdie putt left some work to do on his par try, but he sinks it to finish at 3 over for the tournament, safely inside the cut line.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke had yet to card a birdie through 35 holes and had a 15-footer to stop that streak. But it wouldn’t go in and he finishes his PGA Championship at 14 over.
Leaderboard update: Anders Hansen is in the clubhouse at 3 under with a second-round 69. Lee Westwood has climbed up the leaderboard is at 2 under.
Rory bombs a drive 314 yards, but it finds a bunker and it’ll be a test to get to the green.
He didn’t pass that test, sending his shot left and into another bunker. He still has plenty of distance to cover and is staring at bogey.
And bogey it is, and Rory moves to 3 over and will need to be safe on the final hole of his day so that he isn’t flirting with the cut.
Leaderboard update: D.A. Points has moved to 5 under, while Anders Hansen is 4 under and playing his final hole of the day. Leader Steve Stricker (7 under) is still 75 minutes from teeing off.
Rory gave himself another shot at birdie, lifting his tee shot high in the air and putting it on the front of the green. As the round has rolled on, we’ve seen Rory release his right hand off the club more often, maybe a sign of the wrist being a bit fatigued.
He puts his birdie putt right next to the cup and taps in for a par to stay at 2 over, nine shots off the lead.
Nice drive, nice approach shot and Rory slides in a birdie putt to move back to 2 over for the tournament. Can he make a run to get back to even par and stay in contention?
Rory smacks his driver to the left side of the fairway on the par 5 and should be able to make a run at the green in two shots.
His second shot hits at the front of the green and runs up to give himself a chance at a long eagle putt, which would change his round completely.
McIlroy misses the eagle putt and will now have some work to do for birdie after sending it six feet by the hole.
He misses the birdie putt and settles for par, and will have a tough time picking up any strokes on the field as he heads into his final four holes of the day.
Meanwhile, British Open champion Darren Clarke is 13 over for the tournament.
Leaderboard update: D.A. Points is holding steady at 4 under, still three shots behind Stricker. No one else making a significant move at this point.
A safe tee shot into the par 3, right to the middle of the green. Rory cozies it up right next to the hole with his birdie putt and taps in for another par. He’ll need a birdie at the upcoming par 5 to get some distance from the projected cut line at 3 or 4 over.
Looks like Rory won’t have to deal with the problems that he faced yesterday at No. 3, pummeling his drive to the left side of the fairway, avoiding any tree roots.
For those that aren’t familiar, Rory strained his wrist on No. 3 Thursday, trying to hit a shot off a tree root, breaking his 7-iron in the process.
Rory’s second shot on Friday finds a greenside bunker and he’ll have a difficult play because it is shortside.
For the first time, Rory’s wrist came into play, as he duffed his first shot out of the bunker and it rolled back in. His second shot out of the sand rolled to within a foot, where he tapped in for bogey.
Rory now sits at 3 over for the tournament.
Now that McIlroy has slipped off the board after that triple on 17 . . . you have to start looking at the cut line. He’s clearly not 100 percent, and he’s now 2 over, and the cut is currently 3 over. That probably will rise as the morning wave finishes and the afternoon drags on.
McIlroy seems to be avoiding further damage, picking up another par on No. 2.
Rory starts his final nine holes in nice fashion, blasting a 282-yard drive to the left of the fairway.
Pretty pedestrian finish to the hole, finishing with a par to stay at 2 over, the same as playing partner Charl Schwartzel. Darren Clarke, the third in the group, is at 9 over for the tournament.
Leaderboard update: Anders Hansen and D.A. Points have moved to 4 under on the tournament, three shots behind Steve Stricker.
That’s a first-nine 37 for Rory, 2 over par. Aside from a little stretching and flexing, has shown very few side effects from the injury. What has let him down thus far, surprisingly, has been his putting. Needs to get in around level par to stay in the hunt.
Well, all that momentum is lost after a water ball and triple bogey on the par-3 17th. That was a mis-club, not a bad swing. Then carelessness on the green. That hurts, hurts a lot, but he won’t be the last one to drop shots on this treacherous closing stretch, either.
For all the talk about how Rory’s wrist would hold up on the full swing, it seems his smallest strokes are the ones preventing him from making a move Friday. He’s missed four putts inside 15 feet on his opening six holes, but still sits at even par, seven shots back, for the tournament.
If the short ones can’t fall, try a 35-footer instead. Rory bangs one home for birdie on 15, eliciting a throaty cheer from the crowd. That moves him to 1 under for the day and tournament. Bad wrist or not, he’s very much in this, so long as Stricker doesn’t post another 63 in the afternoon wave.
The clearest sign yet that Rory’s wrist should not be an issue going forward is his play out of the fairway bunkers: strong, fearless, full throttle. Seemingly everyone has something to say about the bunkers this week. There’s too much sand, they plug or dig in, they are too light and fluffy. Hitting bunker shots fat, like so many players have done thus far, certainly would jar his wrist. Hasn’t done that yet, even with a full swing.
The one-handed follow through did return on No. 15, but the result was brilliant, behind the hole and looking at a 15-foot birdie putt.
The putt leaks out to the left and McIlroy taps in for another par.
Rory’s long, fluid, powerful swing has returned, and he has yet to show any lingering side effects from his wrist injury. Surprisingly, not too many fans out here watching, not many enthusiastic cheers.
McIlroy gives himself a shot at birdie, but the putt dives under the cup and he has to settle for a tap-in par.
Rory uses an iron off the tee, putting it right off the right side of fairway at the short par 4. He takes dead aim at the flag with his second shot, landing eight feet to the left of the pin.
He slid the birdie putt by on the left side, and taps in for his par.
First test for Rory’s wrist comes when he draws a juicy lie in the left rough on 12. Playing smart, he decides to lay up with a mid-iron. After impact he released his right hand — kind of like A-Rod after hitting a homer. Showed no ill-effects afterward, a good sign, indeed.
Despite a poor third shot, Rory makes a 15-foot birdie putt from off the green to move back to even par.
Rory pulls his drive into a fairway bunker, but is able to get out of it without any signs of pain, putting the 7-iron on the front of the green, where he’ll be looking at a long birdie putt.
The 70-footer glides by the hole, leaving McIlroy about six feet coming back, which he drains for par.
Leaderboard update: Jhonattan Vegas has started his round fast, 2 under through four holes to move within five shots of leader Steve Stricker (7 under), who doesn’t tee off until this afternoon.
Talk about powerful imagery. McIlroy, with his right wrist still heavily wrapped, walks across the raised structure and down to the 10th tee. He gingerly shakes Darren Clarke’s hand. The crowd cheers lustily when he’s announced. Rory smiles and acknowledges the fans. Everyone loves a courageous figure, right?
Early on, at least, Rory is going full bore. No one-armed releases at impact, his usual lag on the downswing. Whatever treatments he received, whatever heavy-duty wrap he is wearing, seems to be working, including a 315-yard drive. As for his putting . . . well, he three-putted No. 10 for an opening bogey.