McIlroy looking to up his game for Masters weekend

Charles WHELAN
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts on the 18th hole during the second round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia

Rory McIlroy, one-over par after 36 holes at the Masters, heads into the weekend in worse shape than he had hoped, needing to raise his game to stay in contention.

The world number two shot an even par 72 on Thursday and one-over 73 on Friday in swirling winds gusting up to 40mph (65kph).

In a share of 12th place, it was the first time since 2010 that he had failed to beat par in at least one of his first two rounds at Augusta National.

Americans Charley Hoffman and Rickie Fowler are in a four-way tie for first place on four-under 140 with Belgium's Thomas Pieters and Spain's Sergio Garcia.

"I feel like I need something in the 60s tomorrow at least to get myself in there," said McIlroy, who bogeyed the final hole Friday after the wind caught the green and frustrated a birdie attempt.

"The wind got me with my putt, sort of the ball went up the green instead of coming back down," he said.

If he had sunk that putt, he would have been going into the final two rounds one under par instead of one over, a psychological advantage at least, if nothing more.

"I'm disappointed by what happened at the last (hole), but I'm in a decent position going into the weekend," he said.

- Career Grand Slam -

Four-time major winner McIlroy, five shots back and trying to complete a career grand slam by winning the green jacket, would have preferred to have been in a stronger situation with two rounds to play.

Looking ahead to the Masters earlier this week, he said that it was important to get off to a good start to avoid being put under pressure and forced to shoot aggressively for the greens.

When under pressure, "you start to shoot at a few pins... leave yourself in spots you don't really want to. Then you can run up numbers pretty quickly," he said.

But, on a positive note, the weather forecast for the coming two days is good news for McIlroy, predicting an end to the disruption from the wind.

"Yeah, the weather's going to be better, the wind's not going to be as strong," he said.

"I'm five behind at the minute and there's probably going to be a good few guys that finish ahead of me going into the weekend.

"So, if I can put together a 67 or a 66 tomorrow, I feel like I'll be right in there for Sunday."