Rory McIlroy defied his usual strategy of killing it on the first day and then tumbling on day two by shooting two rounds of six-under-par 66. Starting the day last Saturday in the British Open, he was four shots in front of his nearest competitor and all he really had to worry about was the forecast of oncoming thunderstorms.
However, by the twelfth hole, McIlroy had lost his advantage and was tied for the top spot. It wasn’t anything that McIlroy did wrong, more it was the excellent play by Rickie Fowler who birdied seven of the first 12 holes in an amazing run of perfect golf.
But just as quickly as Fowler’s luck was going well, it suddenly turned. On the 14th hole, he dropped a shot with a bogey. But it was the par-five 16th hole – one of the easiest holes on the course – that was his undoing. His drive was buried in the bunker, he lost a shot getting out, and then had an eight footer to save the par… but he missed.
At the same time, McIlroy seemed to find a higher gear. As he said after the game, “I felt Rickie close to me. I was able to to turn it on when I needed it.”
And turn it on he did. In a twist of irony, the two holes that hampered Fowler were the very two holes that McIlroy started getting some traction.
On the 14th hole, McIlroy holed out a magnificent 35-foot putt for a birdie. And then, just to rub it in, he got an eagle on the 16th. In the course of two holes, there was a five-stroke swing between Fowler and McIlroy.
To please the crowd even more, McIlroy eagled the final hole and finished the day 16-under par for 54 holes. An incredible achievement that gives him a six stroke lead going into the final day.
Speaking to the press about his feelings for how he was going to approach the last day of the tournament, McIlroy told journalists, “A lot can happen. And I’ve been on the right side of it and I’ve been on the wrong side of it. You can’t let yourself think forward. You’ve just got to completely stay in the moment, and that’s what I’m going to try to do for all 18 holes tomorrow.”