Rory McIlroy was undone by the riddle of the sands at Royal Lytham, dropping six shots with visits to five bunkers in a second round 75 that left him 12 shots behind leader Brandt Snedeker on two over.
He’s hoping he can mount a third round charge alongside Padraig Harrington today but he knows he’ll need to commit to his shots and avoid the bunkers that all but swallowed his Claret Jug hopes on another benign day at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
“It wasn’t the best day out there,” McIlroy said after carding two birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey at the par-three ninth. “I was doing pretty well just to hang in there around par on the front nine. And making a double on the ninth there was sort of the turning point in the round and I couldn’t really recover from that.
“I wasn’t committing to my tee shots and it was two minds a few times about what shots to hit off tees. That’s just something I’ll need to improve on tomorrow, just really commit to it and try to get the ball in the fairway.
“It was just one of those days where I couldn’t quite get on my game and struggled to get any sort of momentum.
“I felt like I was hitting the ball pretty good on the range. I was losing a few to the left, so maybe that’s why I was trying to protect that one and maybe why I missed a couple to the right early on.”
McIlroy bogeyed the third after a poor tee shot, birdied the fourth from 12 feet but could pick up just one more shot all day thanks to a deft up and down at the par-five seventh.
The rest of his round was a litany of mistakes.
Bunkered in two at the sixth, he finished close to the face and bogeyed before dropping two shots at the ninth when his nine iron tee shot spun back into a bunker.
Distracted by a photographer, he backed off and then got disturbed by a burgular alarm before leaving his attempted escape in the sand.
He got out the second rtime around but walked off with a five and never really looked the same again.
Having immediately recovered from every mistake in his first round with a birdie, he failed to get a shot back at the 10th, then dropped three shots coming home with three visits to sand.
Bunkered at the par-three 12th, he bogeyed again then drove into a bunker at the 14th and bogeyed again.
At the 17th he found more sand off the tee and was forced to drop out of casual water. It plugged, of course, and he could only chip out and dropped another shot.
Believing he can get back into the mix with a third round 65, he said: “Obviously Snedeker is a little bit ahead at the minute, but I feel like if I can maybe get it back to where I was at the start of the day today, somewhere around three or four under going into Sunday, I think I’d still have a great chance.”
He spent time on the range with coach Michael Bannon after his round in an attempt to rediscover his swing and stay out of the bunkers on Saturday.
“The course is very playable,” he said. “You just need to keep out of the bunkers, which is the whole idea anyway. So no, it’s totally it’s fine. I don’t see any problem with the water in the bunkers.
As for the fan he hit in the head with a drive on Thursday and his decision to put him up in a hotel, he said: “I thought it was the least I could do. I didn’t want him sleeping the night in a tent when he’s got a massive gash in the side of his head.
“I put him and his mate up for the night and gave them a bit of cash to go for a bit of food last night. I actually tried to get them into the hotel for a couple more nights, but they were just fully booked, so last night was the only night they got to spend.
“But as I said, it was the least I could do. If someone gave me a big hole in my head, I wouldn’t be too happy.”
Asked how much he gave the youngste, he said: “Not much. Well, it depends, it’s all relative. A hundred something quid.”
He’d pay a lot more for a good score on Saturday.
The McIlroy that blew the field away at a soft Congressional in last year’s US Open is in there somewhere. But whether he can find some confidence off the tee and let it happen alongside Harrington remains to be seen.
Michael Hoey, struggling to find his swing after an opening 79, posted a 75 to miss the cut on 14 over.
Third round tee-times
8.10 J Luiten
8.20 T Watson, L Westwood
8.30 C Campbell, J Daly
8.40 A Da Silva, R Fowler
8.50 K Bradley S-M Bae
9.0 R Fisher, KJ Choi
9.10 G Woodland, C Howell III
9.20 P Larrazabal, J Pagunsan
9.30 B Jones, T Matteson
9.45 A Baddeley, V Singh
9.55 R Echenique, M Baldwin
10.05 J Hicks, A Noren
10.15 F Jacobson, J Furyk
10.25 P Harrington, R McIlroy
10.35 N Colsaerts, G Fdez-Castano
10.45 H English, B Grace
10.55 R Sterne, G Owen
11.05 W Bennett, D Johnson
11.20 Y Fujimoto, N Watney
11.30 R Cabrera-Bello, JM Singh
11.40 F Molinari, J Senden
11.50 H Mahan, L Slattery
12.0 B Estes, D Whitnell
12.10 B Watson, I Poulter
12.20 J Donaldson, M A Jimenez
12.30 T Jaidee, G Mulroy
12.45 A Lahiri, T Potter Jr
12.55 R Goosen, G Ogilvy
1.05 L Oosthuizen, M Laird
1.15 T Bjorn, Z Johnson
1.25 B Haas, K Stanley
1.35 S Khan, G Chalmers
1.45 M Calcavecchia, A Romero
1.55 P Hanson, T Muto
2.10 S Dyson, C Pettersson
2.20 J Morrison, S Stricker
2.30 L Donald, S Alker
2.40 E Els T Aiken
2.50 J Dufner, G McDowell
3.00 M Kuchar, P Lawrie
3.10 T Olesen, T Woods
3.20 A Scott, B Snedeker
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20 July 2012