Rory McIlroy shunned his cell phone, chucked his laptop, and, given his strong start at Wentworth, put his outside-the-ropes strife on hold long enough to shoot himself into contention at this week’s BMW PGA Championship.
McIlroy, who broke off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki earlier in the week, opened his European Tour stint with a 4-under 68, thanks to two eagles -- a two on the par-4 seventh and a a three on the par-5 12th.
The two-time major champion followed up Thursday’s round with a 71 after a two-putt birdie on his final hole on Friday got him to 5-under overall and squarely in contention, just four strokes behind leader Thomas Bjorn. Bjorn fired a first-round, record-setting 62 on the redesigned West Course and was 9-under overall through six holes on Friday.
"It was a good day. I played well, hit a lot of solid shots," a wan McIlroy told reporters on Thursday. "The two eagles helped, obviously, and it's one of my better rounds at this place."
McIlroy wasn’t kidding, given his relationship with Wentworth, which, prior to his start he characterized as "strained." An apt description, given his three missed cuts in six previous starts.
"It's a place I've notoriously struggled on in the past, so it was good to shoot something in the 60s," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting back out onto the course tomorrow and hopefully doing that again."
For sure, the Ulsterman surprised observers with his ability to shut out his off-course woes, which he made public on Wednesday when he announced he and his tennis star fiancee had called off their wedding just days after sending out invitations. A renowned Twitter enthusiast, McIlroy noted after Thursday’s round that he had gone off the cyber grid.
"I haven't turned on my phone for a few days and I've given my laptop away. I'm sort of living like I'm in the ‘70s," he said. "Look, everyone goes through it [breakups], it’s part of life and it’s tough ... It's a tough week and I'm not really that comfortable standing here talking about it."
After Thursday’s stellar play, it appeared as if McIlroy would succumb to the troubles that have hounded him on the Wentworth track, making the turn to No. 10 at 3-over 38. He came in, however, with a 4-under 33, which included another eagle on the 12th, and finished in fine form, with three birdies in his last three holes.