Rory McIlroy woke up Saturday with a chance to run away from the rest of the field at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
That didn’t happen.
It was quite the opposite. A two-over par effort on the front nine brought McIlroy back to earth and opened the door for a number of contenders but it was Francesco Molinari who took advantage of the situation.
Molinari shot the day’s best round among the contenders — a six-under par 66 that got him to 13-under par and set up what could be an exciting head-to-head confrontation with McIlroy over the final 18 holes.
McIlroy fought his way back after that shaky start and birdied the final two holes to tie Molinari at 13-under. It was the first time this week that Rory birdied the back-to-back par fives and that effort allowed him to post 71.
McIlroy is looking forward to a better day on Sunday.
“I scrambled well for the most part. I was four under for the last 12 holes in this wind, which was pretty good, but it wasn’t the calibre of golf that I played yesterday. I need to start hitting more quality shots and put the ball in play and if I can do that then tomorrow is a big day,” McIlroy said after his day’s struggle.
“Francesco obviously played a good round today and a few guys played a good round. We have a little bit of a cushion compared to the rest and it’s not quite a two-horse race but I think if we both get off to good starts tomorrow, it could turn into that.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll need to play better than what I played today.”
Molinari was jazzed after his bogey-free round.
“I just love playing here,” said Molinari. “Clearly it suits my eye and I just enjoy the atmosphere. The crowds are always great. It is a challenging course but I think if you hit good shots, you can make a few birdies here and there. I love it and hopefully it will be another good day tomorrow.
“It would be amazing to win a Rolex Series event. To win here with such tradition and it’s a course that is in the heart of Italian golfers as well, with Constantino (Rocca) and Matteo (Manassero) winning here in the past. I’ll see what I can do.”