After shooting a two-over 72 during the opening round of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park in New York on Thursday, Rory McIlroy needed a strong Day 2 to try to work his way back into contention.
Instead, he quickly found himself playing for tournament survival on Friday.
McIlroy started on the back nine, where he managed an even 35 on Thursday. That would not be the case this time around, though, as he got off to just about the worst start imaginable: double bogey, bogey and double bogey.
It was a tough day for the field early on at Bethpage, but few endured rougher starts than McIlroy, who shot five-over for the first three holes. Just like that, the two-time PGA Championship winner went from trying to make up ground on Brooks Koepka (seven-under 63 in Round 1) to fighting to avoid missing the cut.
Finding himself below the projected cut line, McIlroy managed a birdie on the 13th.
He would not be able to ride that momentum long, however. A bogey on the 15th hole dropped him back down to five-over for the day. The good news is he was able to get through the final three holes of the back nine unscathed, helping him limit the damage to a 40 on the back nine.
According to PGA Tour Communications, the average score on the back nine in the first round was 36.788.
The front nine would be much kinder to McIlroy on this day.
After going through a stretch of six straight holes of par, McIlroy began to make some moves late in the round. Starting on hole No. 4, he ran off three straight birdies en route to recording four in five holes.
That strong finish helped him move from seven-over to three-over to put him in position to make the cut. When he finished up for the day, the projected cut line was at three-over. He entered the clubhouse above the projected cut line.
His up-and-down performance comes one day after he stressed the importance of taking things shot by shot.
"Keep hitting good shots. Don't let it frustrate you. Keep hitting good putts," McIlroy said on Thursday, per Golfworld's Joel Beall. "Eventually things will turn. Hopefully that birdie on the last was the turning point, finish on a positive note and come back tomorrow and hopefully get into red figures for the tournament.
McIlroy was able to shake off a rough start on Friday to bounce back on the front nine and avoid a disastrous round.
The 30-year-old star has missed the cut just once in 10 previous appearances at the PGA Championship.