Attention, all players not named Rory McIlroy at PGA National this week. As of now, you may be playing for second place.
For the first time in a while, McIlroy’s name is at the top of a PGA Tour leaderboard heading into the weekend, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
McIlroy wasn’t able to match the output from his first round, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. While the Ulsterman got off to a slow start on the back nine with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12, he found a way to power back that was the complete opposite of his infamous walk-off at this tournament a year ago. He worked his way back to even by the time he made the turn, and came in with a 31 on the front to find himself one shot up over Brendon de Jonge overnight.
What’s the most impressive about this run? Rory isn’t just playing great golf, but he knows he’s getting it locked in.
“I knew that with the way I’m playing and the confidence in my ability, I would be able to get those shots back,” McIlroy told the Associated Press about his shaky start. “I didn’t panic. I didn’t try to do anything different. Just tried to keep playing the way I was.”
When you’ve got as few flaws in your game as McIlroy right now, “playing the way you were” is generally good advice. Even though he’s only hit 60 percent of his fairways thus far, his short game and putting have been off the charts. His 13 birdies are second in the field, and he’s taken a ridiculous 49 putts through 36 holes, a number even McIlroy thinks is a career record.
It’s obvious that this version of McIlroy – calm, focused, and perhaps just a bit cocky – is getting his game in shape all at the right time. It’s early, of course, but it’s the type of game he displayed when he took over Tiger Woods‘s place at the top of the world ranking. If he keeps it up, it’s only a matter of time before he gets that spot back.