Watershed for McIlroy: "A couple of months ago... I would have been going home"

Rory McIlroy tees off on the ninth. Picture: Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ieRory McIlroy blasted four birdies in his last seven holes to keep his US PGA defence alive in what could go down as the watershed moment of his season.

The world No 3 looked to be heading for back-to-back missed cuts in major when he crashed to four over with just eight holes to go in torrential rain at soggy Oak Hill.

With a cloud forming over his head, the Holywood star suddenly got inspired when the downpour eased and he caught fire to add a 71 to his opening 69.

“It makes me feel good because maybe in the middle of the season or a couple of months ago I wouldn’t have been standing up here.  I would have been going home.

“It’s good to be able to do that and fight back and makes you feel good about yourself going into the weekend.”

Still nine shots behind halfway leader Jason Dufner on level par, he was asked the reason for his dramatic turnaround, and beamed: “Basically, the rain stopped!

“It was coming down pretty heavily when we started on the tenth tee, and the golf course was playing incredibly long.

“And after I dropped a couple of shots I started pushing too hard, which rarely works in those conditions.

“Walking up the second hole, which was my 11th hole today, all I wanted to do is be here for the weekend.  All of sudden, I’m somewhat back in the tournament.

“Once the rain cleared I started to his some quality golf shots, and the three iron I hit into the third hole to make birdie there for the second day got me off and running.

“At four over I knew I had to turn it round quickly, and I managed to play myself right back into the tournament.

“I’m a fair way back, but if I make a fast start in round three I could still get into the mix.”

McIlroy was on the back foot from the start when he three putted the 10th, missing from just three feet for par.

He birdied the driveable 14th by blasting driver just short of the green and chipping to three feet.

But with heavy rain lashing the Rochester course, the world No 3 suddenly started leaking shots like those US Ryder Cup rain suits at Celtic Manor.

Bunkered on a downslope at the par-three 15th, he could only splash out to 18 feet and three-putted again for a double bogey.

He then did well just to drop one shot at the monster 509-yard, par four 17th, holing a 10 footer for bogey after moving his second shot just 20 yards in the rough.

He grinned: “Driver, seven-iron, five-wood, chip and a putt for five. Very good five.”

Another shot went at the 18th where he again failed to escape from the heavy rough and missed a six footer for par.

Forced to chip out of more rough at the first, he missed a 12 footer for par there and was suddenly two shots outside the cut mark on four over.

It was doubly frustrating for the 24 year old superstar as Webb Simpson shot a 64 in the group on front and at one stage threatened to shoot a 62 - the lowest round in major history — to finish on four under.

McIlroy said: “All I saw in front of us today was Webb picking his ball up out of the hole.  He seemed to make everything.”

It wasn’t until the rain stopped that McIlroy got on a roll and he did it in spectacular style with birdies at the second, third, seventh and eighth.

He said: “I was letting the round get away from me somewhat, but making four birdies on the last eight holes was nice to sort of redeem the round a little bit and keep myself in the tournament.

“I just being more positive.  It’s all about attitude more than anything else and not getting too down on myself.”

The turnaround started at the par-three third where he hit a 222-yard six-iron to six feet and followed that by pitching to 10 feet at the par-five fourth.

At the seventh he drained a 40-foot bomb from just off the green and then backed that up by hitting a wedge to just three feet at the eighth.

Struggling off the tee for most of the day, his driver and putter came to the rescue near the end.

And he admitted that he simply had to make birdies to make the cut in a US title defence for the first time in his career.

He said: “I needed to make some birdies to, I guess, just guarantee myself for the weekend, but try and get myself back in the tournament.

“Yeah, it was pleasing.  It was pleasing to see that.  I had some nice shots coming in and more importantly for me hit some good putts coming in, which was good to see.”