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After questioning the 23-year-old's mindset and wondering if he'd find his swing (and confidence) before the U.S. Open, following his third straight missed cut, McIlroy gave the golf world an emphatic answer on Friday afternoon with an impressive 5-under 65 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic to grab a one-shot lead.
Spending much of the last month grinding for an under-par round, McIlroy finally looked at ease on the course, strolling the fairways with a cocksure swagger that's been absent from his game. Even when it looked like things could get ugly after back-to-back bogeys on the back nine, he didn't panic, going 3-under over his final five holes.
With the exception of an eagle and another birdie on the card, there wasn't much of a difference between Thursday's 68 and Friday's 65. Sure, McIlroy hit a couple more fairways and greens, but that was about it.
But if you dig deeper into the numbers, you'll notice McIlroy's eagle and five birdies on the day all disappeared from inside 10 feet. What that tells you is the kid was peppering the flagstick on Friday, something he rarely did over the last few tournaments.
He did miss a 37-inch par putt at the par-4 13th hole, and a four-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th, but the fact remains that he's giving himself makable birdie chances for the first time in a while.
That could be huge to building his confidence before the U.S. Open and doing something many of us thought was impossible: going to Olympic Club as the favorite. However, after 36 holes in Memphis, McIlroy's making believers out of us again.
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