McIlroy’s slump goes from bad to worse

Furyk sets blistering pace on the course with magical 59

Rory McIlroy hits a shot on the third hole during the second round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms GC yesterday. Photograph: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy hits a shot on the third hole during the second round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms GC yesterday. Photograph: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Fri, Sep 13, 2013, 23:40

Rory McIlroy may have walked off the course at the Honda Classic in March and missed the cut at the British Open with a 79 in his first round. But at no stage this year has the 24-year-old former world number one followed an opening 78 with a 77 to go 13 over par for two rounds.

A counter point to the struggles of the Holywood man was veteran Jim Furyk, who became only the sixth player on the PGA circuit to shoot a 59. Only five players in PGA history have ever shot below 60, nobody a 58.

Furyk, playing the back nine first strung together six birdies and pitched in for an eagle on 15 for an opening 8 under 28, 10 shots better than his first round. He then methodically held the birdie tempo to go 11 under through 16 leaving him a tantalising challenge to birdie one of the last two holes for the magical 59.

It was a stunning run from the American, who mirrored what Brandt Snedeker had done in the first round to drive him to the top of the pack. But where Snedeker fell away from the magical number, Furyk stayed firm and hit the fairway on his final hole, the ninth, to leave him with a wedge from 103 yards. Nerveless he hit it to inside three feet to leave him with the shortest of putts to join the elite club and tie the lead with Snedeker on 11 under par.

The normally restrained Furyk broke into a broad smile and saluting the crowd. “A little hectic down the stretch,” he said afterwards.

But while the American was streaking up the leader board, McIlroy struck a lonely figure. He shot a season high 79 in the third round of The Masters in April but his first two rounds in the BMW Championship at Conway Farms, outside Chicago have been comfortably the worst the Ulsterman has posted this year.

Since February McIlroy has had four top 10 finishes with his best a second place at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Back then it seemed that his wayward game had begun to come together, but all season his stuttering attempts to find the consistency that has made him a Major Champion and the best golfer in the world at this time last year have seemingly degraded further.

Yesterday’s second outing in the 70-man field confirmed that the issue is less a slump and more of a malaise with his game. Following on from his opening 78, he opened the front nine with four bogeys and a double bogey, the rest pars except for a rare birdie on the par 4 ninth hole. Five over par for nine holes and he was heading towards oblivion.

It was somewhat halted in the back nine but McIlroy was far from functioning. While he kept the bogeys to two and also carded a birdie on the par five 14th hole, his combined 155 has left him stuck at the tail end of the field.

It seemed quaint at that point to consider his task for the weekend, which was to finish in the overall top 30 in the FedEx Rankings, which would take him through to next week’s concluding event, the Tour Championship at East Lake GC in Atlanta.

To achieve that he needs to finish eighth or better this weekend, which is now utterly remote.

Graeme McDowell had another patchy day and opened his front nine with two bogeys and two birdies to turn on level par.

But the Ulsterman was struggling to get anything going and for every birdie that inched him up the rungs, he seemed to undo the good work with a bogey.

Two more bogeys on the back nine were countered with a birdie on the par 5 14th hole, but McDowell was just off key. A double bogey on the 18th left him on 73, two shots worse off than his opening 70 and sitting just inside 40th place.