AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - A dazzling eagle at the par-five eighth was the highlight of Rory McIlroy’s second round at the Masters as the Northern Irishman clawed his way back into contention after making a stumbling start on Friday.
Two bogeys in the first three holes wiped any hint of a grin from the world number two’s face and he did well to salvage pars from outside six feet on the next four holes to remain at two over for the tournament.
McIlroy then struck a brilliant five-wood from 275 yards at the eighth, his ball bouncing off mounds to the left of the green before settling just three feet from the flagstick.
“Just a nice high draw,” the 23-year-old told reporters after shooting a two-under-par 70 to end a tricky day for scoring at a blustery Augusta National on two-under 142, four strokes off the lead.
“I was surprised to see where it finished. You’re looking to get a chip shot that close, so it was nice to get up there and see that ball pretty close to the hole.”
Out in level-par 36, McIlroy birdied the 13th and 14th before bogeying the 16th, but signed off in style with a 10-foot birdie putt at the last.
“It was good,” said the twice major winner, who will be eager to atone this week for his nightmarish final-round meltdown at the 2011 Masters when he squandered a four-shot overnight lead with a closing 80.
“I made a lot of good putts for pars on the front nine. I didn’t play my best for the first few holes but the eighth hole really got me going, really kick-started me.
“Then I started to hit some really good quality shots. Anything under par today was going to be a good score and I stayed patient out there when I needed to. It was a good day.”
McIlroy, who has not won a tournament in this year and lost his number one ranking to Tiger Woods, was especially pleased with his putting on Friday.
“The improvement from last night to today has been a big thing,” said the Northern Irishman, who produced relatively poor form earlier this season following a lucrative but widely criticized switch in club manufacturers.
“I’m committing to my lines a lot better. What pleased me today was just not letting it get away from me.
“Two over through three holes and having par putts on the next four from outside six feet and being able to turn in even par was something I was very proud of today.”
Asked to assess his position going into the third round, McIlroy replied: “I’m comfortable. I’m comfortable with my game, I’m happy with this position going into the weekend.
“And the conditions don’t look to be getting much easier out there, so it will be nice to have a nice afternoon and look forward to tomorrow.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury