AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory McIlroy had some great swings Friday afternoon, hit some great shots and had a fine afternoon. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t all that inspiring.
It probably had something to do with the fact that overnight leader Charley Hoffman was begging to be caught, bogeying five of six holes midway through his round and falling to 3 under after a bogey at No. 11.
The Masters was wide open again and McIlroy hinted at a serious run with back-to-back birdies at holes No. 5 and 6. He hammered his chip at the par-3 sixth and flashed a nearly-apologetic grin when it struck the pin and dropped in for birdie.
He never really took off and built on the moment. McIlroy played the final 12 holes at 3 over and finished with a 1-over 73, placing him five shots off the lead at 1 over for the tournament.
He also squared up with Augusta National after a bit of luck on six when his approach on 18 hit the pin and rolled off the front of the green.
McIlroy wanted more out his 18 holes
“I think I could have gotten more out of the 18 (holes) today,” McIlroy said. “But I felt really good after my 18 holes yesterday. I felt like I could have shot a couple under out there today, two- or-three-under-par. But I missed a couple of short (putts) and got a little bit unlucky on the last. Anything around even par after two days, I think everyone would be pretty happy with.”
That’s certainly true and McIlroy is well within striking distance of co-leaders Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler. He made sure of that with a few breathtaking shots, including his approach on the par-4 5th from the hard ground well right of the second cut which led to birdie.
But with World No. 1 Dustin Johnson out and a host of players taking themselves out of the race early, McIlroy had the green light and didn’t step on the gas.
‘Come on, Ror!’
“Come on, Ror!” someone shouted from the bleachers after McIlroy laid up and waited to hit his third shot at the par-5 15th. Whoever it was knew the door was wide open and watched as McIlroy left himself a lengthy birdie putt and made par.
Maybe Rory knew something the shouter didn’t.
McIlroy was disappointed with a few shots but never hung his head after the round. He seemed pleased to be T-13 ahead of a 2 p.m. tee time with Matt Kuchar Saturday.
Maybe Friday wasn’t the right time. With more favorable scoring conditions expected over the weekend, maybe McIlroy is just waiting to make his move.
“I’ll approach tomorrow with a completely different mindset,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy kept pace through two rounds. It seems his race is just getting started.