Late on Thursday evening, Rory McIlroy could do little wrong as he made light of a double bogey to shoot a nine under par 63 over the Muirfield Village course in Dublin, Ohio, the pride and joy of its designer and greatest supporter, Jack Nicklaus.
In a twinkle, however, the three-shot advantage he enjoyed over his nearest rivals disappeared, as the dream world of the newly-crowned BMW PGA champion suddenly turned into an ugly nightmare on the second day of the Memorial tournament.
McIlroy somehow played the same nine holes he had covered in an almost effortless five under 31 on Thursday (a stretch that also contained a double bogey) in 43. Three double bogeys in succession seemed hardly credible. He struggled gamely on from there to sign for a 78 but by then, he was well back in the pack. The thousands of spectators who had turned up early in the morning could hardly believe their eyes as they watched another McIlroy melt down materialise.
He began the second round at the 10th, which he duly three putted, but the real disasters began at the par four 13th (trouble off the tee followed by three more putts) and the 14th, where he found water with his approach with a wedge from as little as 126 yards.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, however, Rory double hit his chip to the par five 15th, after almost reaching the green in two near perfect shots. Having run up a hat-trick of doubles, it was hardly surprising that he later admitted that his head was almost totally frazzled at that stage. He wasn’t surprised then by a bogey at the 9th that saw him to the turn in 43, 12 more than he had taken over the same stretch the previous night.
And it would have been even worse had he not holed from a bunker at the 8th to save par.
To McIlroy’s credit, he played his homeward nine in one under par 35 but even them he ran up a six at the long 5th.
“It was a difficult day, one where everything went wrong after I got a lot of breaks the night before so I cannot complain”, said McIlroy. “I’m still in one of the Tour’s biggest tournament chances, depending on what the others do and it all looks exciting with the US Open just around the corner.”
At that stage of the tournament, he was seven shots adrift of current Irish Open champion Paul Casey who was 10 under for the tournament head for the turn with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen safely in the clubhouse on six under.
Meanwhile, Alvaro Quiros carded the best round of the second day of the Nordea Masters in Malmo to take a share of the lead with Victor Dubuisson and Eddie Pepperell.
Spaniard Quiros was five-under-par for the day after eagles on the first and 11th holes, along with birdies on the 15th and 18th and a bogey on the fourth, as he went round in 67.
That bogey cost him the outright lead, but Quiros was satisfied with his score in light of what he felt to be issues with his putting.
France’s Dubuisson was an earlier finisher on day two and enjoyed a share of the clubhouse lead with birdies on the first, second, 13th and 14th holes, with a bogey on the 17th the only blot on his card.
Pepperell, who held the overnight lead alongside Jens Dantorp, birdied the last to join the leading group again after a level-par 72 which included two further birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey.
Wales’ Bradley Dredge was in a six-way tie for fourth with Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and Chris Doak, and home favourites Henrik Stenson and Dantorp.
Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello fell slightly off the pace as he cancelled out three birdies with bogeys on the 18th, second and sixth holes after starting on the back nine.
It saw him finish on level par for the day and four under in total, alongside Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Robert Karlsson and Italian Edoardo Molinari.
Kevin Phelan is best of the Irish, shooting a 70 yesterday for a 141 total. Gareth Maybin is a shot further behind, following his opening 67 with a disappointing 75.