McIlroy rallies but faces tough task

A poor front nine on Friday more than likely ruined World No 1 Rory McIlroy’s chances of a career Grand Slam at the Masters.

The Northern Irishman’s form heading into Augusta hadn’t been great, and there was to be no significant turnaround over the first two rounds.

A 1-under-par 71 was a decent if unspectacular return on day one, but McIlroy really needed something good on Friday. Instead, he shot another 71 which left him on two under.

He was made to look all the more pedestrian in the face of Jordan Spieth’s brilliance, a man four years his junior, who was way out in front on 14 under.

McIlroy could only cover his front nine in a disappointing 40. Despite a birdie at the second, he bogeyed the first, fifth and seventh and double-bogeyed the ninth.

The Northern Irishman was staring down the barrel of a missed cut at that point, but he pulled himself together on the back nine, making one further bogey but adding birdies at the 10th, 15th, 17th, 18th and a superb hole-out for eagle at par-5 13th.

His back-nine rally was impressive, though it still left him in need of somewhat of a miracle at the weekend in order to catch a red-hot Spieth.

“I wish I did not have to play a back nine like that to get two under for the tournament,” McIlroy told ESPN after his round. “Just wasteful on the front nine, missed a couple of very short putts and was a little uncomfortable on the greens.

“I’m really proud of myself the way I fought back and to shoot five under was a good effort and I am going to need four more like that it looks like.

“Going into the weekend I am going to have to go out there and get off to a really fast start and post a couple of low scores to have any chance.

“Jordan has played two phenomenal rounds of golf and does not look like he is going to let up. I have left myself an uphill battle but I will try my best at the weekend.”