Scott in tough Open duel with McIlroy
SYDNEY: Overnight leader Adam Scott battled through the wind and rain for a mixed bag of a round of two-under-par 70 to take a two-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy at the halfway stage of the Australian Open yesterday.
McIlroy benefited from easier early conditions to post a nine- birdie 65 and join the world No 2 at the top of the leaderboard on 10-under before the Aussie had even teed off.
The US Masters champion lit up the Royal Sydney Golf Club with a course record 10under 62 in bright sunshine on Thursday and initially continued in the same vein by picking up shots at two of his first three holes yesterday.
The stiffening wind and driving rain took their toll, though, and five further birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey later, Scott was signing for his second round with the same two-shot cushion.
“It was a tough afternoon, plenty of good stuff in there, but made a few mistakes in the tricky conditions,” said Scott. “At times, it was extremely difficult and I think I held it together pretty well.
“It was going to be a day for hanging in. I made lots of birdies, but bogeys were easy to come by if you were just slightly off and probably most scorecards would have looked similar this afternoon.”
World No 6 McIlroy’s growing confidence at the tail-end of a difficult season was clearly evident in his second round at the Royal Sydney, where he tightened up the putting that had left him seven shots behind Scott overnight.
“It feels good, I played well, putted much better today than I did yesterday too, so that was a big positive. I’m in a great position going into the weekend,” said McIlroy.
If McIlroy’s snaking 14footer for a birdie at the sixth was the putt of the day, Richard Green took the iron shot honours for his hole-in-one at the same par-three.
The 42-year-old Australian also hit six birdies with two bogeys in his early round of 66 to claim third place a shot behind McIlroy, but there was no doubting the highlight of his day.
“I think it was about 157 yards or something like that, which was, I suppose, just with the conditions; there’s a little bit of wind off the left and it suited the draw in there and just got it perfect,” the European Tour regular said.
With all due respect to the pair, most eyes will probably be on the group teeing off behind them and tournament organisers will be hoping for a hotly contested duel between the best two players in the field.
Scott won the Australian PGA and Masters in the past month and could hardly be in better form.
Despite McIlroy’s poor season, though, he was certainly not writing off the former world No 1 and twice Major champion.
“Obviously he’s one of the best players in the world so I’m going to have to bring my best game and try and match it with him,” Scott said. – Reuters