You often hear players talk about feeding off one another when they are in the same group and both doing well.
What was rather different was the incredulous look from the shell-shocked Swede and his hilarious response. ‘How do you draw off someone who’s that good?’ asked the defending champion who, lest we forget, shot 62 at Wentworth last year.
Rory McIlroy and Alex Noren walk off the 18th green after the second round at Wenthworth
McIlroy fired himself into a three-shot lead over the rest of the field with a classic round of golf
‘That’s the best round of golf I’ve ever seen. I’m about to quit golf, I think. I wanted to make birdies so I could just get the honour on the next tee, and so I didn’t have to hit after watching a 330-yard driver or a 300-yard three-wood. I’ve never seen anything like that. It was just shot after shot after shot.’
Perhaps we had better keep it from Noren, then, that Rory still thinks he has work to do to get back to his best, or the Stockholm man really might start looking for another line of work.
McIlroy’s tinge of dissatisfaction stemmed from the fact he did not birdie either of the last two holes for the second day in a row, as he failed to take advantage of two perfect drives on the alluring par fives.
But he was swift to acknowledge that, for 16 holes at least, every cylinder was firing as he followed a 67 with a 65 for a 12-under par total and a three-stroke lead over 21-year-old Englishman Sam Horsfield, with Tommy Fleetwood four adrift after a 66.
‘There were still a couple of loose shots in there but overall it was a great round,’ conceded McIlroy. ‘It was amazing to get to the first tee at 8am and find so many people had got up to follow us. The atmosphere out there was incredible and it was great to play so well in front of them.’
The Northern Irishman followed his first round of 67 with a second round 65 for 12 under
Who wouldn’t get up early to watch the golf equivalent of Lionel Messi or Roger Federer in full flow? When McIlroy birdied four holes in a row from the 12th, a 63 had moved into view and the sort of advantage from which he invariably goes on to win tournaments by a street.
But, with the weather due to warm up, the greens dry out and the lead not completely daunting, there is just enough encouragement for the chasing pack given the problems McIlroy has had here in the past.
Mixing it with McIlroy and Co on Saturday will be a young Englishman who has lived in America for most of his life and has a look of Patrick Reed — of all people — about him in terms of gait and natural swagger.
McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his second shot on the par 5 at the BMW PGA Championship
Horsfield was just 14 when his mentor Ian Poulter described him as ‘unquestionably the best young golfer I’ve ever seen in my life’. If you can live up to that billing, no wonder you have a look that says you belong.
Halfway through a rookie season in which he has contended for two titles already, it is easy to see why Poulter was so impressed. Now Horsfield has McIlroy in his sights. ‘It’s been a dream season so far,’ said Horsfield, who hails from Manchester but now lives in Orlando.
‘I played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and got to see Tiger Woods close up, and now at halfway I’m not far behind Rory. I remember watching him play so well at the Masters in 2011, when I was 13 or 14, and that was a real eye-opener. It just feels great to play in the same tournaments as these guys.’
As for Noren — assuming he hasn’t quit overnight — he should not be discounted at five behind, while Poulter recovered from his opening-day woes with a fine 67.
McIlroy chips out of a bunker during the second round on his way to carding seven under