KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — It wasn't the prettiest round in the world, but considering how difficult the Ocean Course was playing on Friday afternoon, Rory McIlroy will take 3-over 75 -- especially given how things were going early in the round.
After taking advantage of prime scoring conditions on Thursday morning to post 5-under 67, McIlroy arrived at the course 24 hours later to find a completely different test with golf flags flapping and the wind blowing anywhere between 20-30 mph.
McIlroy was forced to change his game plan quickly. One day after he went birdie hunting, the 23-year-old turned to his survival skills during the second round to stay in contention.
Early on, it looked like McIlroy might be an Ocean Course casualty, after he opened with two bogeys in his first seven holes to drop from 5-under to 3-under before he even made the turn. With the most difficult stretch of holes on the course -- Nos. 10 thru 13 -- awaiting his arrival, things didn't look good for McIlroy.
But over the final nine holes McIlroy did something he'll likely have to do over the next two days if he wants to contend, and win, the PGA Championship: he started to grind. Despite opening with a bogey on the par-4 10th, he managed to keep things together down the stretch to stay within two shots of the leaders.
"It could have been a couple shots better, of course, but I limited the damage as much as I could, and I'm in a good position going into the weekend, so I can't really ask for more."
On a day where two players in the field shot 90 and a score in the 80s barely raised an eyebrow -- defending PGA winner Keegan Bradley called Friday the "Hardest golf course/day I've ever played" -- McIlroy dug his feet in and held on.
He'll likely have to do the same thing over the next two days if he wants to have any chance at hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening.