Rory McIlroy won The Open Championship last month and has now put himself in position to win a second straight major at the PGA Championship. He carded a four-under 67 in Round 2 to place him atop the leaderboard at nine under par.
Quite simply, the Northern Irishman is firing on all cylinders and showing no signs of slowing down. It's the type of nearly flawless golf fans haven't witnessed since Tiger Woods was at his peak. The success also represents the type of consistency he lacked earlier in his career.
McIlroy gave off a sense of extreme confidence after the opening round. He fired a 66 despite a double bogey on the 10th hole. Bob Harig of ESPN.com passed along his post-round comments in which he talked about missing very few shots in recent weeks.
"I was very hot," he said. "Things like what happened on 10, they happen. You hit bad shots. It sort of knocked me off track a little bit because it's one of the only bad shots I've hit in a few weeks. What I was really angry about was you don't compound that error and make a bogey on the next hole with a three-putt."
McIlroy talked about how in control he's felt after the round, according to ESPN.com:
I'm feeling good about my game. I'm confident and hit the ball well for the most part, though not as quite as well as yesterday. I feel in control of my game and my emotions and need to do that over the weekend as well.
PGA.com had more:
The Northern Irishman continued, per the PGA Championship's official Twitter feed and ESPN Golf:
"I've had to learn to become a front runner" -- @McIlroyRory— ESPN Golf (@ESPNGolf) August 8, 2014
In between The Open Championship and his red-hot start at Valhalla Golf Club, he also won the Bridgestone Invitational. He's showcased this type of form for limited stretches in years past, but this is his most sustained display of high-level performance to date.
Let's check out his scorecard from the second round:
And here's a look at the updated leaderboard:
The round didn't get off to the greatest of starts.
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The 10th once again proved difficult as McIlroy was unable to take advantage of the par five. He followed it up with a par on the next hole before playing a sloppy 12th that led to him dropping his first shot of the day.
Just when it looked like he might be going through more Friday struggles, which plagued him earlier this season, he quickly cleaned up the mistakes and started to find a groove. He knocked in two birdies over the next three holes as he began to adapt to the soggy conditions.
The three-time major winner found the fairway on the closing 18th, his ninth hole of the day. That gave him the green light to attack the hole with his approach shot. Although it wasn't perfect, it gave him a look for eagle.
PGA.com highlighted the 30-foot effort that moved him to eight under par and into the lead:
Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest was impressed with the pureness of the 25-year-old star's swing:
Want me to choose my favorite golf swing of today? Rory McIlroy. I like a guy who can drive it 400 yards and never lose his stance.— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) August 8, 2014
As he made the turn, Jason Sobel of Golf Channel felt he might be getting ready to pull away from the field:
Rory McIlroy makes eagle to take a two-shot lead. Starting to get the sense it could be another weekend coronation.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) August 8, 2014
It didn't turn out that way, as he struggled to create birdie opportunities after the eagle and dropped a shot on the second hole that put him into a tie with Ryan Palmer.
Yet, even when he was just grinding out pars to avoid losing any further ground, he was drawing plenty of praise.
Ian Poulter was keeping tabs on the action while waiting for his afternoon tee time:
Rory is on a mission, he is playing simply incredible golf at the moment. Need to find a gear to step it up.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) August 8, 2014
Former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones believes the transition to golf's new top player is well underway:
But I got a feeling there is a new Tiger Woods in town.......and his name is @McIlroyRory— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) August 8, 2014
McIlroy moved back to the lead by taking advantage of another par five. This time it was the seventh and the formula was the same. Perfect tee shot and ideal approach. He couldn't connect on the eagle putt this time, but he tapped in for an easy birdie.
PGA.com showcased the nicely flighted second shot:
After a par on the eighth, McIlroy finished the day with a birdie on the ninth courtesy of a mid-range, confidence-building putt. It moved him two strokes clear of everybody else as he walked off the course.
Golf.com passed along his initial thoughts after the round:
Looking ahead, McIlroy would have certainly liked to do more with his second nine holes on Friday. That said, he still did enough on Day 2 to get himself firmly in contention heading into the weekend, and that's the main objective early in a major.
The biggest question is whether he can maintain his current level of play for 36 more holes. All hot streaks eventually come to an end, but the way he's navigating courses right now, with a terrific combination of power and precision, nobody can match him.
Unless scoring conditions improve markedly during the afternoon, he should find himself in one of the final groups on moving day. A strong round would send a message to the rest of the field as he tries to capture his second PGA Championship trophy.