They weren’t able to match their opening round score, but the Irish pair of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell still hold a three shot lead over the rest of the field after a second round 68 at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
It was always going to be a tough ask for the pair to match Thursday’s astonishing round, and they had to fight hard for their four-under par second round. All the signs point to a formidable duo which, should they both make it, should continue into the Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor next year.
Opening up a five shot lead around the turn, they might well have disappeared over the horizon but they were pegged back by defending champions Sweden, whose pairing of Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson scored a combined total of 65. Their charge was helped by McDowell finding a water hazard on the 15th hole and an unwelcome reappearance for McIlroy’s short-putting problem; the Irishman missing from two feet for a double bogey.
However, back-to-back birdies on the next two holes saw the Irish pair rebuild their three-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard although Stenson and Karlsson also recorded late birdies to hang onto the leaders’ coat-tails.
The Italian pair of the Molinari brothers – Francesco and Edoarado – are a further shot behind in third place.
England’s Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher sit tied for ninth alongside South Africa, India and New Zealand after a 70 but are nine shots off the pace, while Germany are a further two shots back. Spain, meanwhile languish well off the pace at four under par and are ahead of only Scotland, Brazil and Pakistan.