Sun, Jul 20, 2014 - Page 18 News List

McIlroy takes control at Open with four-shot lead

ALSO-RANS:Tiger Woods barely managed to make the cut, while it was up to six players at six-under and the US’ Dustin Johnson to try to reel in a rampant McIlroy

Reuters, HOYLAKE, England

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy looks at a male pheasant on the eighth green during his second round, on day two of The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake, England, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

This time there was no freaky Friday for Rory McIlroy, as a majestic second round gave him a four-shot stranglehold on The Open at a sweltering Royal Liverpool course.

Several second-round blow-outs this season, the most recent at the Scottish Open, meant all eyes were on the 25-year-old Northern Irishman to see if he could capitalize on his one-stroke overnight lead rather than shoot himself in the foot.

Apart from a jittery bogey on the first, his only dropped shot so far, he was immaculate, racking up seven birdies for a second successive round of 66 for a 12-under total of 132.

Tiger Woods attracted huge galleries, but a triple bogey at the 17th meant the 14-time major champion needed a birdie at the last to make the cut by his fingernails.

He duly obliged, but barring an extraordinary turnaround in his form he will be making up the numbers at the weekend.

Less celebrated US player Dustin Johnson is to lead the chase of the run-away McIlroy after a tournament-best seven-under 65 fired him into contention for his first major.

Fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore were in a formidable group of six players on six-under, which also included Italy’s Francesco Molinari, popular Spaniard Sergio Garcia, 2011 US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2010 Open winner Louis Oosthuizen.

After a calm opening day, warm, gusting winds of about 32kph meant birdies were at a premium for the early starters, with South African George Coetzee the only player to make a move with a 69 that gave him the clubhouse lead.

However, the birdies and eagles flowed later as the wind lost its strength and the leaders, most of who got the best of Thursday’s weather, began to make hay in the sunshine.

Even the local wildlife came out to play as McIlroy’s charge was briefly halted by a curious pheasant that wandered across the eighth green, before he drained another long putt.

McIlroy, who won the US Open by eight strokes in 2011 having also reached double figures under par by the weekend, was not about to let his so-called Friday demons ruin a gilt-edged chance to seize control of the Open.

At the Scottish Open this month he followed a 64 with a 78 and at the Memorial earlier this year he slumped to another 78 after a first-round 63. Another second-round meltdown occurred at the 2010 Open, when he went from 63 to 80.

Laser-straight off the tees, delicate with his wedge and hot with the putter, McIlroy shrugged off his scruffy start to birdie three of the four par-fives on the coastal links and notch twos at the par-three sixth and 15th.

By the time he reached the par-four 17th, where Woods racked up a horrid seven after going out of bounds, there was no stopping him as he launched a drive of nearly 400 yards on his way to yet another birdie.

McIlroy walked off the 18th green with the stride of a man in complete control and afterwards he told reporters that far from any Friday nerves, he had felt an “inner peace.”

“My second rounds this year have been terrible,” McIlroy told reporters. “And there isn’t really any explanation, but hopefully I put it to bed today.”

The big-hitting Johnson will be a threat, though.

He fired seven birdies in a blemish-free round on Friday and his duel with McIlroy yesterday promised to be fascinating.

Should McIlroy fail to close the deal this weekend, Garcia would prove an equally popular winner.

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