Quail Hollow confidence carries McIlroy to weekend

Washington (AFP) –


Rory McIlroy fired a five-under par 66 on Friday to play himself into the weekend at Quail Hollow, a welcome boost for the slumping former world number one.

The Northern Ireland star, who has fallen to 15th in the world and hasn't played on a weekend since earning a share of 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, had six birdies on the North Carolina course, where he is a two-time winner, for a 36-hole total of four-under 138.

"It was better," said McIlroy, who hit just five fairways but found 14 of 18 greens in regulation. "I felt like I found something with my iron play last week. I didn't get a chance to show it yesterday because I wasn't finding the fairway much. But having some more opportunities today, I was able to show it a bit and it was nice.

"I played some really good shots into the par-threes and that's something that I haven't been doing for the last few months, so that was nice."

McIlroy's recent lackluster results include missing the cut at the Players Championship, failing to reach the weekend at the WGC Match Play Championship and missing the cut at his last event, the Masters.

He admitted it has been frustrating.

"When you're playing bad, you feel so far away," he said. "And when you're playing good, you always think to yourself, 'How did I feel like I was so far away?'" he said. "It's such fine margins.

"When you played the way I played through that stretch in March and into April, you're going to feel like you're not as close as you probably are.

"But I worked hard after Augusta. I took a week off and reset, which I needed. But then I put my head down and worked hard and at least felt better about everything coming in here."

McIlroy won his first US PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow in 2010 and lifted the trophy again in 2015, giving him a certain level of confidence, as does the fact that he has "birdied a lot of the hard holes."

"Knowing that even if you don't birdie a par-five or you don't take advantage of the easier holes, that you're hitting it good enough that you can still make birdies on the tougher holes ... that probably makes it a touch easier," he said.