- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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PARAMUS, N.J. -- Given all that has occurred over the past month -- and knowing what is ahead in the coming weeks -- a possible Friday exit from the Barclays could be viewed as understandable, even if such a performance would also be deemed disappointing.
With Rory McIlroy's form of late, sleep-walking through these first two rounds should seemingly get him to the weekend. And yet it never works that way in golf. McIlroy was missing something during the opening round at Ridgewood Country Club, and it cost him, meaning a missed cut seemed quite possible.
And yet here is McIlroy a day later, his name not quite on the leaderboard but within shouting distance of those on top. A 65 with no bogeys will do that, and all that talk about needing a rest and a missed cut being a good thing and too much going on off the course turned into just that -- idle chatter.
"I said yesterday missing the cut isn't an option," said McIlroy, who rebounded nicely from his opening 74. "I know how well I'm playing and how comfortable I am with my game, so even to miss a cut feeling like that would have felt really bad.
"So that's why I put a little extra bit of effort in yesterday and this morning and made sure I was ready to go out there this afternoon."
McIlroy was in 102nd place after the first round of the first FedEx Cup playoff event and headed to the driving range to sort things out. While no big fix was necessary, McIlroy did spend nearly an hour at the Ridgewood practice area and some more time Friday morning before embarking on his second round.
And it didn't take long for him to know that things would be fine.
"From the first hole," said McIlroy, who birdied No. 1, hit every green in regulation on the front nine and 15 of 18 overall. He needed just 28 putts and all of a sudden the No. 1-ranked player in the world finds himself just 5 back of leaders Adam Scott and Cameron Tringale, albeit with numerous players to pass.
It seems a long time ago now that McIlroy couldn't get out of his own way on Fridays. He had a stretch in which he played six Friday rounds this year with a score of at least 40 for nine holes.
That last time it occurred was on July 11 during the second round of the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen. McIlroy opened the tournament with a 64, then shot 78 the next day. "It was just coincidence more than anything else," he said. "I just played bad on that given day."
And yet it happened often enough that it was dubbed "Freaky Friday."
A week later, McIlroy was on his way to winning the Open Championship, shooting 66 on Friday at Royal Liverpool. And now he has had this stretch of Fridays: 66-64-67-65 and followed the Open with wins at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship.
That stretch of impressive golf, winning three of the biggest tournaments of the year in a row, led to obvious questions about sustaining such a run. McIlroy could not be blamed for wanting to celebrate his victories -- and did so. He even went home to Northern Ireland, went to a Manchester United game in England, then returned to the New York area all in the span of a few days.
Exhausted? Maybe not a 25-year-old, but clearly a bit of the edge was missing on Thursday. But it was not gone for long.
"I expect if I execute my shots and stick to my game plan and do what I can, there's low numbers in me, and hopefully that means that I will be at the right end of the leaderboard," McIlroy said.
After the summer McIlroy had, it would be easy to dismiss these tournaments. He wouldn't be the first to have done that. But McIlroy has stressed that he's trying to put the wins behind, while focusing ahead.
He has set a goal to win the FedEx Cup, and while the volatile points system in play can have a lot to do with that, getting to the Tour Championship in the first or second spot has been his goal. Then it's all about seeing how the final tournament of the four playoff events goes.
And if that's not enough? The Ryder Cup looms soon after.