Rory McIlroy poised for ‘sprint finish’ in PGA Championship at Wentworth

On a day that many believed would inevitably feel different from the norm Rory McIlroy supplied the sense of familiarity. A 65 means he will begin the third and final round of the PGA Championship one shot off the lead.

The scale of support for McIlroy and the cheers as he pieced together his latest excellent round of 2022 were perfectly typical. As McIlroy walked towards the clubhouse on completion of media duties, giddy autograph hunters chanted his name. In fact, bar a two-minute silence in honour of the Queen and the donning of black ribbons by players, this proved as normal an occasion as onlookers could expect. McIlroy’s pizzazz played a huge part in that. Afterwards he addressed the bigger picture.

“Yesterday was a sad day for Great Britain,” McIlroy said. “The Queen has been such a steadying figure. To give that level of duty with the dignity, the dedication and grace that she had; she was an absolutely incredible woman and over the next few days I think you are going to see her celebrated as such.

“I was very fortunate to meet her a few years ago and she couldn’t have been nicer. It was a wonderful moment for me, I have the picture in my house alongside the MBE which I am very proud of.”

The DP World Tour clearly agonised over the continuation of this event after Friday’s pause. “I thought it was the right decision,” McIlroy said of the resumption. “I don’t think we are disrespecting anyone by playing. Hopefully we are showing our respect and celebrating what an incredible life the Queen had. The atmosphere was brilliant, it really was. It was great.”

The highlight of McIlroy’s round was an eagle at the 4th. Yet par saves at the 13th and 16th could prove just as important by the time this tournament concludes. The 33-year-old feared his drive at the 17th was heading out of bounds before the assistance of some tree branches. “That was a seven that turned into a four,” McIlroy admitted.

He remains on course to add this tour’s order of merit to the FedEx Cup he won in such memorable fashion at East Lake in late August. McIlroy’s 11 under par puts him alongside Thomas Detry and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Viktor Hovland and Søren Kjeldsen head the field at minus 12.

On a wonderfully congested leaderboard Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari, a former winner here, stand out at 10 under. Matt Fitzpatrick and Billy Horschel will still fancy their chances from four adrift of the leaders. McIlroy’s suggestion of a “sprint finish” appeared perfectly fair.

Sergio García is likely to turn heads among DP World Tour members after being filmed at a college football game in the United States as round two was rumbling towards conclusion in Surrey. García shot 76 in round one here and promptly withdrew without giving a reason to tour officials.

There had been no shortage of pre-tournament fuss about García and his fellow LIV rebels performing at Wentworth. The Spaniard’s early exit is therefore unlikely to have gone down well. The DP World Tour offered no comment on García’s situation but the former Masters champion could be subject to sanction if he is perceived to have withdrawn without due cause.

Justin Rose cited a back problem for his removal from the draw sheet. Ryan Fox suffered a knee injury meaning he, like García and Rose, lasted just 18 holes.

Luke Donald, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain and a two-time Wentworth winner, was among those to miss the cut. So, too, did the 2019 champion, Danny Willett.