AUGUSTA, Georgia - Rory McIlroy’s round of 69 on Friday moved him within a stroke of the lead at the Masters, setting the Northern Irishman up for a weekend push for a second major championship triumph.
“I feel like I’ve played solid golf the last two days and could have been a couple shots better, like probably everyone in the field is thinking,” said McIlroy.
“But I’m in a nice position and I definitely would have taken it after the start yesterday,” he added, referring to his opening double-bogey on Thursday.
The U.S. Open champion, who imploded in his final round at Augusta last year, started the day at one-under par but by the seventh he was four-under par and in the running, a superb 35-foot putt on the fourth, the high point of his birdies.
McIlroy bogeyed the 10th, the hole where he infamously drove into course-side cabins last year, but he recovered with birdies on the 13th and 15th to briefly have a share of the lead.
But after a bogey at the par-four 17th he was left in a pack of several players in a tightly-compressed chasing pack.
“I drove the ball better. That was the big thing. Whenever you drive the ball well here it enables you to be a little more aggressive with your iron shots, and maybe go at a few more pins. That was the difference today,” said McIlroy.
The 22-year-old showed his composure to recover from his poor start on Thursday and then advance in the second round.
“The whole round yesterday was important to me; to not let the start get to me, and those two birdies at the end really gave me some momentum going into today.
“That was a big challenge for me, a big test, because obviously not the way you want to start the tournament. And to sort of stay patient and hang in there, I felt like I did that pretty well.”
That coolness is something McIlroy said he had to develop over the years.
“I definitely didn’t have a good temperament for golf when I was growing up. I was a little temperamental. I think you learn that being like that ... can only be a negative thing for you,” he said.
“There’s no point in getting upset or really throwing clubs, because it just puts you in a bad frame of mind. It’s better just to stay positive and think of the chances that you have coming ahead.
“I think that’s something that I’ve definitely developed over the past few years.”