After ten holes of his second round, defending US PGA Champion Rory McIlroy was four over par for the tournament and in danger of missing the cut, before a spirited fightback clawed the Northern Irishman back into contention.
McIlroy, who prevailed in record-breaking fashion to win his second Major Championship in last year’s edition at Kiawah Island, birdied four of his last seven holes for a one over par 71 to finish level par heading into a weekend he very nearly did not reach.
At a rain-soaked Oak Hill Country Club, the 24 year old Holywood native started with a bogey at the tenth before getting back level for the day with a birdie at the driveable par four 14th.
McIlroy found all sorts of trouble at the following hole, however, three-putting after finding a tricky lie in the greenside bunker at the par three before three further bogeys in succession from the 17th.
“Walking up the second, which was my 11th hole today, all I wanted to do is be here for the weekend,” said McIlroy, who is this week attempting to become the first player from the United Kingdom to win the same Major in back-to-back years since Sir Nick Faldo in 1989-90 (Masters Tournament).
The two-time Major winner refused to be cowed, hitting a three iron to six feet for birdie at the par four third followed by another at the long fourth. A 40-foot putt dropped at the par four seventh before a wedge approach to three feet at the eighth set up a fourth birdie in six holes to complete a resilient day’s work.
“All of sudden, I'm somewhat back in the tournament,” McIlroy continued. “If I can get off to a fast start tomorrow then I'm right there. It’s been a funny day but the finish has given me a lot of momentum going into tomorrow.
“It makes me feel good because maybe in the middle of the season or a couple of months ago I wouldn't have been standing up here. I would have been going home.
“It's good to be able to do that and fight back and makes you feel good about yourself going into the weekend.”
As has been well-publicised, it has not been an easy year for 2012 Race to Dubai Number One McIlroy, but he said a brighter outlook helped in distinctly gloomy conditions in Rochester.
“I’m just being more positive,” he added. “It's all about attitude more than anything else and not getting too down on myself.”
McIlroy is nine shots off the lead of American Jason Dufner heading into the weekend.