McIlroy threatens in Shanghai after gritty round


SHANGHAI: World number two Rory McIlroy closed his day with a crucial eagle to cap a see-saw round and move to within one shot 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 in east Asia’s premiere golf event, a stroke behind leader Matthew Fitzpatrick of England.Although he did not win a major this year, the Northern Irishman’s consistently strong play saw him take home the 2019 FedEx Cup and the PGA Tour Player of the Year award.He said earlier this week in Shanghai that his success this past season had motivated him to recapture golf’s top ranking — now held by American Brooks Koepka — which McIlroy hasn’t occupied in four years.“Delighted with the first two rounds,” McIlroy said at Sheshan International Golf Club. “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.”Defending champion Xander Schauffele continued to battle through a bad flu to keep alive hope of becoming the event’s first back-to-back winner. The American was in a three-way tie with South Korea’s Im Sung-jae and Australian Adam Scott at -9.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. 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 to close with a easy eagle.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. The tournament features 15 past Major winners including Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth, but Koepka and a resurgent Tiger Woods are absent.
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