Attack the best defence for McIlroy as wayward Lowry misses cut

Attack the best defence for McIlroy as wayward Lowry misses cut
Rory McIlroy chips in at the 6th on Friday

Rory McIlroy chips in at the 6th on Friday

He's survived two days of hell to remain in the hunt, now Rory McIlroy knows he has to go from defence to attack if he is to win the Masters and complete the career Grand Slam on Sunday.

The golfing gods have been fickle with the 27-year-old Co Down man at Augusta National over the years, and this week already he's had a ball stay on the bank at Rae's Creek and also had laser-like approach to the last ricochet off the pin and back down the fairway, leading to a closing bogey.

A 73 was not what McIlroy felt he deserved to add to his gritty opening 73, but at one over par, he's tied for 13th and only five behind a quartet of major-less co-leaders in Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler.

They lead by two shots on four-under par from William McGirt with Jon Rahm, Ryan Moore, Fred Couples and Justin Rose the only other players under par.

McIlroy will have noticed that Jordan Spieth is there at level par, after 2015 champion and 2014 and 2016 runner-up rolled in a couple of birdie putts at the 16th and 18th for a 69 that put Thursday's quadruple bogey nine at the 15th to rights.

"I’m close enough, within five, and I knew anything around even par was going to be decent today," McIlroy said. "I’m a little disappointed with what happened at the last there, but these things happen and if I can get off to a fast start tomorrow, a couple under through three, I’ll be right there."

McIlroy will be hoping to take advantage of light winds (10-15mph) and receptive greens and shoot another ten under par weekend, as he did two years ago when Spieth was running away with the green jacket.

But he will need to straighten up from the tee - he's ranked 53rd of the 53 who made the cut having hit just ten fairways of 28 on the first two days.

He's also going to have to cut out the close range misses with the putter having missed three inside five feet to lie 50th of 53 for that particular statistic compared to the likes of Spieth, Garcia or 46-year old Phil Mickelson, who is tied for 10th on level with Spieth, Adam Scott.

He certainly had his share of good and bad luck on Friday, rattling the pin but holing a chip from 16 yards at the sixth for birdie when it looked to be heading for Five Guys on Washington Road.

He began with a bogey at the tough first, two-putted the second for birdie but then three-putted the third from nowhere for bogey before getting up and down from sand for par at the fourth. 

A brilliant birdie at the fifth and that chip in at the sixth put him under par for the day before he made another good up and down for par at the seventh.

A poor drive at the ninth cost him a shot, and another went at the 12th, where he chipped poorly from the back of the green.

After missing a four-footer for birdie at the 13th, he missed a chance from eight feet at the 14th, failed to birdie the 15th after another poor drive and was forced to scramble again to save par at the 16th.

When he birdied the 17th from 12 feet a round in the red looked possible. His approach to the last almost went in on the fly but hit the pin, and after chipping to four feet, he inevitably missed the putt.

"I thought the shot on the last was perfect," he said. "It was a good number, one of those ones where you had ten or 11 yards past the pin and you could bring it back in, I hit a really good shot, but it was unfortunate."

He's still well in the hunt but with so many good players ahead of him, he knows he needs a good start alongside Matt Kuchar on Saturday to get his Masters charge under way

 "I’ve won in blustery enough conditions before, he said. "It’s not my favourite type of conditions,  but it’s not anyone’s. 

"I battled away and hung in there. The middle part of the round yesterday was huge for me. It kept me going. 

"There are still 36 more holes left to go – a long way in this tournament, and I know what can happen, good and bad around this golf course. 

"A couple of years ago over the weekend I shot ten under par on the weekend and Jordan was just too far ahead, and there are other times I’ve shot bad weekends and went the other way. 

"Anything’s possible out there but I feel like I’m playing well enough and I’m in a good frame of mind where I can go out there and attack and make some birdies.
"You’ve got a couple of guys in at four under par, and the wind is supposed to be non-existent this weekend – down to five or ten miles per hour which is nothing here. 

"I would say a couple of rounds in the mid to high 60s you would have to shoot to have a chance.

"I could have got more out of the 18 today. I felt really good after my 18 yesterday. I felt like I could have shot a couple under today. Two, three under par. But I missed a couple of short ones and got a little unlucky at the last, but anything around even par you have to be happy with."

Attack is the only way for McIlroy from here and he plans to come out with all guns blazing today. 

"Last year in the final group (on Saturday) it was in similar condition to this and I was more in defence mode rather than attack," he said. 

"It’s a completely different mindset going out there to make birdies rather than not to make bogey. I’ll approach tomorrow with a completely different mindset."
Sadly for Shane Lowry, there is no chance of recovery after a second round 79 saw him miss the cut for the second time in three appearances.

The big Offaly man went into the second round tied for 11th after a brilliant driving display set up a battling 72 on day one

But his driver let him down badly yesterday as he hit six bogeys in an outward 42 and then lost a ball off the tee and double bogeyed the 10th to go eight over.

After hitting just six fairways and racking up 30 putts in a disappointing display, Lowry faced an anxious wait to see if he would make the top 50 and ties who made the cut but ended up missing out by one stroke.

Lowry said: "I just played 10 holes badly and then the last eight like I played them yesterday.

"There is nothing else I can say. I tried my best out there, and it is probably not good enough to make the weekend, and I'm going to miss by one. 

"It's disappointing. I feel like I played 26 holes like one of the best golfers in the world this week and then ten like one of the worst. 

"It was just tough out there. It was so hard."

Lowry was out of sorts off the tee from the start, finding bunkers off the tee at the first three holes.

He bogeyed the first, failed to make birdie at the par-five second and then horseshoed out from nine feet for par at the third after spinning his approach off the front of the green.

He did well not to bogey the fourth when he pulled his tee shot 70 feet wide of the flag, then found more sand from the tee at the fifth.

After a deft chip to three feet had looked to have set up a par-three, he lipped out for par again.

He said: "I just kept on putting it in bad positions off the tee, and you just can’t do that out there.

"It’s so hard there at the start, you’re just trying to make a few pars, and I hit four fairway bunkers in the first five holes. You just can’t do that around here.

"The greens are starting to firm up as well. It’s very tough. It’s as tough as this course can play, I think."

Four over for the day after six, he had to make a seven-footer for par from the rear trap at the seventh.

But his driving problem resurfaced at the eighth where he snap-hooked it the trees and could only advance his ball 35 yards.

From there he laid up to 77 yards but could get up and down for par. 

Another shot went at the ninth where he made the mistake of leaving himself a downhill putt from 50 feet and three-putted to go out in 42.

After losing a ball off the 10th tee to card a morale-sapping double bogey six, he went on the attack.

But even after hitting a sensational 227-yard approach to 11 feet at the 11th, he couldn't convert the putt.

The world No 65 then missed a 13 footer for a two at the 12th but two-putted from 40 feet for birdie after two perfect strikes at the iconic 13th.

He badly needed a birdie at the par-five 15th, but after opting not to take on the 247-yard approach over water, he overshot the green with his third.

He had holed twice from off the green in round one but he put his hands on his head in frustration as he watched his delicate chip track towards the cup and miss by a whisker.

Birdie chances slipped by at the 16th and 17th and even after getting up and down from the back of the 18th for par, he was convinced he would miss the cut.

Lowry said: "It looks like a weekend off and on to Hilton Head next week.

"Listen, I feel like I played the last eight holes as good as I can play. I’d like a run at the weekend to get a bit more experience around here as well, and another weekend at a major."

McIlroy is there but for Lowry, it was a case of what might have been.