Shanghai - World No 2 Rory McIlroy was all smiles after capping a roller-coaster
round with an eagle on Friday to move within a stroke of the half-way
lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Friday.
Coming off his strongest season in years, McIlroy matched his
opening-round five-under-par 67 to get to 10-under in east Asia's premiere
golf event, where he hopes to gain ground on the world's top-ranked
golfer, Brooks Koepka.
The Northern Irishman goes into the weekend a stroke behind leader
Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who jumped into the lead with a late
blitz of sweet putting at Sheshan International Golf Club.
McIlroy started hot, with four straight birdies on the front nine,
but then struggled to hold things steady through several tense holes in
the middle of his round.
Still, he was gunning for the lead down the stretch before badly
pulling his tee shot on the par-4 16th, losing it deep in the forest. He
ended up dropping a shot.
But two holes later McIlroy lashed a perfect drive down the fairway
of the par-five 18th followed by a 218-yard iron that settled a couple
feet from the pin.
A grinning McIlroy then strode to green for the kick-in eagle.
"Delighted with the first two rounds," McIlroy said.
"To put myself right in contention going into the weekend is
something that I wanted to do. It's something that I haven't done a lot
of over the last few weeks."
"It was obviously nice to finish the way I did, especially after the mess I nearly made at 16."
McIlroy's consistently strong play saw him take home the 2019 FedEx
Cup and the PGA Tour Player of the Year award, success that he says has
motivated him to recapture golf's top ranking after a four-year wait.
Although he is yet to win the event's $1.7 million victor's reward,
McIlroy now has the best score in relation to par of any player in the
tournament since 2009, at 81 under par.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele continued to battle through a
bad flu to keep alive hope of becoming the event's first back-to-back
The American was in a three-way tie for third with South Korea's Im Sung-jae and Australian Adam Scott at 9-under.
The tournament features 15 past Major winners including Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth.
Koepka and a resurgent Tiger Woods, who won a record 82 PGA Tour victory on Monday in Japan, are absent.
Overnight leader Li Haotong of China, who had fired up the crowds'
hopes of a win on home soil with an impressive opening-round 64, came
back down earth on Friday.
He shot an even-par 72 to stay at eight-under for the tournament, three shots behind the leader Fitzpatrick.
Leading second round scores on Friday in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China (par 72):
133 - Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG)
134 - Rory McIlroy (NIR)
135 - Xander Schauffele (USA), Im Sung-jae (KOR), Adam Scott (AUS)
136 - Li Haotong (CHN), Victor Perez (FRA)
137 - Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
138 - Paul Waring (ENG), Matthias Schwab (AUT)
139 - Bubba Watson (USA), Kevin Kisner (USA), Robert MacIntyre (SCO), Tony Finau (USA), Justin Rose (ENG), Abraham Ancer (MEX), Jason Kokrak (USA), Jazz Janewattananond (THA), Yuan Yechun (CHN)
140 - Billy Horschel (USA), Phil Mickelson (USA), Corey Conners (CAN), An Byeong-hun (KOR), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Henrik Stenson (SWE)