The Masters: Rory McIlroy gets blown off course as Scheffler, De Chambeau and Homa lead way

World number two is 10 shots off lead, with Shane Lowry also struggling in windy conditions in Augusta

Rory McIlroy was put through the wringer, suffering his fair share of hardship – perhaps even some misery – in a second round of the Masters where survival, ultimately, was his only consolation on a day where rounds stretched to six hours and winds gusting to 35 miles per hour tested the mental fortitude of one and all.

As world number one Scottie Scheffler, playing in the same group as McIlroy along with Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, managed – as has become his way – to stave off any disasters to join fellow-Americans Max Homa and Bryson DeChambeau in a three-way share of the midway lead on six-under-par 138, the Northern Irishman’s quest to complete the career Grand Slam was all but slammed shut in his face.

The strength of the gusts were such that cones from the towering cathedral pines were thrown around the course, and sand blown from bunkers as if in a desert storm, and McIlroy – who failed to make a single birdie – was among those who couldn’t handle the conditions in signing for a 77 for four-over-par 148, 10 strokes behind the leading trio.

Shane Lowry fared better, even if frustrated with a 74 for 147 that put the Offaly man in tied-30th heading into the weekend.

READ MORE

There were many players who lost rhyme and reason in the brutal wind, which not only buffeted players and caddies but had them questioning yardages and second-guessing club selection in the difficult conditions. Viktor Hovland, for one, had a moment of madness when missing a tap-in from a matter of inches in running up a double bogey seven on the 15th en route to an 81 (10 shots worse than his opening round) to miss the cut.

That cut fell on six-over-par 150 with 60 players (50th and ties) surviving into the weekend, although two Major champions – US Open winner Wyndham Clark and British Open champion Brian Harman – were not among them. Defending champion Jon Rahm, at one point, was outside the cut mark after a double-bogey on the 14th but rallied well for a 76 for 149 to make it by a stroke.

“My golf swing felt horrific for the last six or seven holes, just from sitting around. Especially that 11th hole, it felt like it took an hour to play that hole. It was stop and start, hard to get into a rhythm with the conditions, and obviously how slow the play was as well,” said McIlroy of failing to get any mojo.

For McIlroy – in his 10th attempt at the Masters to complete the career Grand Slam – it was as if that missing piece of the jigsaw was blown away in the wind. If he is to complete the puzzle over the weekend, it will be only with a performance akin to a miracle. The largest ever comeback after 36 holes was an eight-shot deficit by Jackie Burke back in 1956.

“It was just a really tough day, just one of those days that I couldn’t really get anything going. It was just a matter of trying to hang in there as best you could,” claimed McIlroy, who managed to get some favourable bounces back into play off the pine trees after wayward drives. One case in point came on his closing hole, where he managed to make a remarkable par which could yet provide some momentum into the weekend.

But it is a very tall order for the world number two, as – having had a close-up view of Scheffler’s control for the first two rounds – he knows only too well.

“I won from 10 back in Dubai at the start of the year [on the DP World Tour],” recalled McIlroy. “But obviously the Dubai Desert Classic and the Masters are two very different golf tournaments. We’ll see. Hopefully the conditions are a little better [on Saturday]. I still think I can go out [in the third round] and shoot a low one, get back into red numbers, and have half a chance going into Sunday,” insisted McIlroy.

Meanwhile Tiger Woods set a new record of consecutive cuts made, his 24th, in the Masters. Woods – using a fade off the tee to keep control of his ball – walked, gingerly at times on a surgically fused ankle, for 23 holes, completing the final five holes of his first round and then all 18 of a second.

Not quite like the Woods of old, lacking fluidity and rhythm, but back again as a headline act, even if it was another of those in his grouping, Max Homa, who headed into the weekend eyeing a green jacket.

“I’m tired. I’ve been out for a while, competing, grinding. It’s been a long 23 holes, a long day. But Lance [Bennett, caddie] and I really did some good fighting today, and we’ve got a chance. I’ve always loved playing here. I’ve been able to play here since I was 19-years-old. It’s one of the honours I don’t take lightly, being able to compete. The years I have missed, I wish I was able to play because there’s such an aura and mystique about playing this golf course that I don’t think that – unless you have played and competed here, you probably don’t really appreciate,” said Woods.

Read More

Recommended