Rory McIlroy remained firmly in contention at the halfway stage of the 94th US PGA Championship despite a tough day at a very windy office on Friday.
McIlroy, who lay one shot off the lead overnight following a fine five under par 67 in Thursday’s first round, eventually signed for a three over par 75 that left him just two shots off the pace heading into the weekend.
The Northern Irishman started solidly enough as winds of up to 30 miles per hour swept across the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, getting up and down twice to save par over the opening four holes.
But McIlroy’s charmed life didn’t continue for long, however, as under the strain of the howling gusts McIlroy dropped shots at the short fifth and par five seventh to reach the turn in a two over par 38.
A further dropped shot followed at the tenth before a run of four holes that epitomised the wholly up-and-down nature of McIlroy’s day.
After bogeying the 13th, a superb tee shot at the testing par three 14th set up a birdie opportunity that McIlroy seized with both hands before he instantly handed the advantage back with an uncharacteristic three-putt bogey on the following hole.
The 2011 US Open Champion once again negated the drop, though, at the par five 16th before finishing with two pars to complete a demanding day in 75 blows.
“It was very tough to be fair,” said a philosophical McIlroy. “We’ve been practicing all week on this range where the wind has been right to left, and then the first few holes were like that but then you turn through that stretch from 6 through to 13 and every hole the wind is off the left.
“It took a little bit of adjusting to; I missed a few balls right at the start but was able to get into it.
“It could have been a couple shots better, of course, but I limited the damage as much as I could and when I turned for home it was nice to make a couple birdies.”
Despite growing up playing golf on the perennially-blustery County Down coast in Northern Ireland, McIlroy has sometimes faced criticism over his ability to adapt to unfavourable conditions, but the 23 year old spoke with maturity beyond his years when discussing the unique challenge it presented.
“You can't get aggressive with this weather,” he reflected. “You don't even care where the pin is, you just try to hit it on the green somewhere. I'll just keep playing how I am and see how this thing unfolds.
“At the minute I'm pretty comfortable in the wind. It's still tough to play in and I think everyone finds it tough to play in, but you've just got to deal with it the best you can.
“I don't know if the wind will be quite the same tomorrow but if it is, it's going to be another tough day and another long grind.”
With Tiger Woods dropping a shot after three-putting the 18th, McIlroy knows he is still within shooting distance of securing a second Major Championship with 36 holes to play.
“I feel good. At the minute I’m only two behind and anything can happen over 36 holes, especially in weather like this, so I'm pleased going into the weekend.
“I said at the start of the week that I wanted to just give myself a chance going into Sunday and if I have a solid one tomorrow, I'll hopefully be able to do that. Who knows, anything can happen.”