AUGUSTA, Ga. – There wasn’t much time for Rory McIlroy to regroup after an opening 75 at the Masters.
Enough time to hit five 9-irons and a 3-wood on the range.
Oh, and enough time to receive a pep talk from Jimmy Dunne, his longtime friend and an Augusta National member.
“It was colorful,” McIlroy said, laughing.
Whatever was said, it worked. McIlroy matched the round of the day Friday with a second-round 66, not just extending his stay at Augusta National but at least giving himself a chance, however slim, of capturing that elusive final leg of the career Grand Slam. At 3-under 141, he’ll begin the weekend six shots off the lead, but outside the top 25.
“I honestly have been playing so good coming in here, and then I go into the first round and I shoot 75, and I’m like, Where the hell did that come from?” McIlroy said. “I knew it was in there; it was just a matter of trying a little more and being committed.”
When play resumed at 7:30 a.m. Friday, McIlroy was even par and had nine holes to play. He had high hopes: A back-nine rally to get back in the mix, then keep rolling into the second round after a 30-minute break.
That didn’t happen.
McIlroy failed to get up-and-down from the greenside bunker on 10. Then he uncorked a wild snap hook on the par-5 13th, his ball sailing deep into the azaleas. He took an unplayable lie and hacked back into the fairway, making a bogey on the second-easiest hole on the course.
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It got even worse a few holes later, when McIlroy dragged his club left through impact on 16 and pulled his tee shot into the water. He was fortunate to escape with only a bogey.
Though he was able to hit just a few balls in between rounds – and get an earful from Dunne – McIlroy trusted himself and swung with more commitment in the second round. The result was a bogey-free 66, tied for the lowest score of the day.
“I was thinking coming into this morning: Play the last few holes in 3 or 4 under par, get in and then go again, and I did the complete opposite,” he said. “That wasn’t ideal, and obviously wasn’t what I was thinking of. I turned it around nicely and shot a good one. At least gave myself a chance going into the weekend.”
It was also the second time in McIlroy’s career that he’s had at least a nine-shot turnaround at the Masters. He went 79-69 on the weekend in 2013.