FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Rory McIlroy raced up the leader board Friday morning at Bethpage Black, making three birdies over his first eight holes and adding a fourth on the 12th to get within one of the lead at the Barclays.   The run was short-lived.   McIlroy three-putted from 45 feet for bogey on 15—leaving his first putt 10 feet short of the hole—then added another bogey on 16 after his approach plugged in the face of a greenside bunker and he failed to get up-and-down.   He finished with a two-under 69, leaving him two under after 36 holes.   “It was nice to get to minus four,” McIlroy said. “But you can see some of the guys scores’ out there today, it was there. The wind wasn’t as up as it was [Thursday] afternoon, and the greens were rolling a little better for us.   “You know, if there was any day or any time to make a good score today, that was it. Looked like I was heading towards that. Gave a couple back on the way in.”   In many ways, it was a microcosm of McIlroy’s 2016 season. Two steps forward, one step back.

RELATED: McIlroy decides to swap out Nike putter at the Barclays   The 27-year-old Northern Irishman has two wins in his last 27 worldwide starts, hardly something that can be termed a slump. But he has kicked away many more chances than that.   Of course there was the missed cuts at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. In between, he entered the final round of the French Open just two off the lead but managed only an even par round to tie for third.   In May at the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy finished just two back at Quail Hollow, but was undone by a pair of 73s in the first and third rounds.   A month earlier at the Masters, McIlroy was just a stroke off the lead going into the weekend before shooting a Saturday 77 and eventually finishing six strokes back.   Even farther back was the WGC-Cadillac Championship in February, McIlroy led by three going into the last day, shot 74 at Trump Doral and finished two strokes back.

RELATED: Jordan Spieth rebounds at Barclays, but is still anxious about his driver   No. 1 in the world a little over a year ago, McIlroy has since dropped to fifth, his lowest ranking since the week before his win at the 2014 Open Championship.   “It’s been a little bit like that,” McIlroy said when asked if Friday felt much like the rest of his year. “A little bit stop/start.   “It’s getting there. I’m staying patient and I’m working hard. I’m trying to take a long-term view on things, especially with what I’m trying to do on the greens. It’s all a process and as long as I keep seeing tiny little improvements here and there each week, I’ll be happy.”


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