If Rory McIlroy is to secure back-to-back victories on the PGA Tour in his quest to augment his bank account by a $10 million bonus in the season-ending Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, then the Northern Irishman will have to produce something special over the weekend after a disappointing second round in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick, Indiana, left him playing catch-up.
As US Open champion Dustin Johnson, who had two eagles in a second round 63, and Roberto Castro shared the midway lead on 14-under-par 130, McIlroy – seeking to add the BMW to the Deutsche Bank championship crown he claimed in spectacular fashion last Monday to reinvigorate his bid for the FedEx Cup title – came back to earth with a bump.
After finishing his weather-affected first round to post a 68, McIlroy’s long game let him down in a second round 72 that left on four-under-par 140, all of 10 shots off the pace.
Graeme McDowell, attempting to manoeuvre his way into the top-30 in the FedEx Cup standings who make it to the Tour Championship in Atlanta in a fortnight’s time, shot a second round 67 – coming home in just 31 strokes – to reach the midpoint alongside McIlroy on 140. McDowell had five birdies on his back nine, highlighted by back-to-back birdies on the 17th from 10 feet and the 18th from 20 feet.
McIlroy’s second round was one of a disappointing long game, with a number of approach shots missing the green. His putter, in fairness, held up pretty well but, after a strong start, with birdies on the Par 5 11th and 15th holes, McIlroy – who started on the 10th – suffered bogeys on the second, where he found a fairway bunker off the tee, and third, when he pulled his drive into left rough, and he then made bogey at the eighth when his approach missed the green. A birdie on the ninth, his final hole, brought him back to level-par for his round.
Ironically, the best-performing European is a player who wasn't eligible for the Ryder Cup. Englishman Paul Casey – who was overhauled by McIlroy in the final round of the Deutsche Bank last week – shot a second round 66 for 133 that had him three shots off the pace.
Johnson stole the show with his superb 63 to add to his opening 67 while Castro produced matching 65s to join him in a share of the lead.
On a course where traditionally long-hitters have prevailed, Castro, one of the shorter hitters on tour, explained how he had managed to get into contention for what would be the biggest win of his career.
“I think if you look at the tour, it sure helps to be long; but the guy who is striping it usually wins. A couple of my best weeks have come on really long golf courses. Billy Hurley won at Congressional this year. It always helps to be long, but really the best player that particular week will win.”