McIl­roy leads by two strokes

New Straits Times - - Sport -

RORY McIl­roy, chas­ing a re­turn to the world num­ber one rank­ing in his first start in seven weeks, fired a sec­ond-round 65 on Fri­day to grab the lead in the WGC-Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship.

The North­ern Ir­ish­man vaulted into a two-shot lead ahead of five­time ma­jor win­ner Phil Mick­el­son, Amer­i­can Justin Thomas and Eng­land’s Ross Fisher.

Four-time ma­jor cham­pion McIl­roy reached a to­tal of nine­un­der 133 at the Cha­pul­te­pec Golf Club for his first 36 hole lead on the USPGA Tour since the 2014 PGA Cham­pi­onship at Val­halla.

“I just felt like I had a bit more en­ergy. I had a bit more pep in my step,” said McIl­roy, who showed no ill ef­fects of the stom­ach trou­ble he has bat­tled this week. “I wasn’t just try­ing to get through the round to­day. I was try­ing to build on the score that I had, and it was nice to feel like that again.”

Mick­el­son carded three-un­der 68 for a seven-un­der to­tal of 135. Fisher also posted a 68 and Thomas signed for a 66.

For a vic­tory to pro­pel McIl­roy back to num­ber one in the world, cur­rent num­ber one Dustin John­son would have to fin­ish in a tie for fourth or worse.

John­son was also in the hunt af­ter a five-un­der 66 that put him in a three-way tie for fifth on 136 with Eng­land’s Andy Sullivan (65) and Daniel Berger (66).

A group of seven play­ers, in­clud­ing Thomas Pi­eters (69) and Martin Kaymer (67) were four shots back at five-un­der 137.

McIl­roy fin­ished with six birdies, two bo­geys and an ea­gle on the par-four 14th. His lead could have been larger but he missed a four-foot putt on 17 and a three foot putt for birdie and set­tled for a par on 18.

“Look, I’m in a great po­si­tion. But I felt like I could have been a few more ahead,” said McIl­roy.

McIl­roy al­ready has two WGC vic­to­ries on his re­sume, the 2014 Bridge­stone and the 2015 WGCCadil­lac Match Play in San Fran­cisco. He is try­ing to join Tiger Woods (18), John­son (three) and Geoff Ogilvy (three) as the only play­ers with three or more wins in World Golf Cham­pi­onships events.

John­son played in the mar­quee trio on Fri­day with McIl­roy and Ja­pan’s Hideki Mat­suyama who shot his sec­ond straight 72.

John­son, who moved to num­ber one with his vic­tory at Riviera Coun­try Club two weeks ago, capped his round with his sev­enth birdie of the day at 18. He had a bo­gey at 14 but then made birdie on three of his fi­nal four holes to keep McIl­roy in his sights.

“I feel like I am play­ing well,” John­son said. “I have just been strug­gling on the greens. It feels like some­one is play­ing goalie up by the hole.”

Mick­el­son, who is old­est player in the field at 46, birdied two of his fi­nal four holes as he seeks to end a vic­tory drought dat­ing to the Open Cham­pi­onship in 2013. Mick­el­son was forced to play all but five holes of the round with his brother, Tim Mick­el­son, on his bag af­ter his cad­die fell ill.


Rory McIl­roy plays his tee shot on the ninth hole in the sec­ond round of the WGC Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship in Mex­ico City on Fri­day.

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