Thursday 23 February 2017

McIlroy and McDowell 68 lift Ireland in World Cup

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell celebrate on the 18th green. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell celebrate on the 18th green. Photo: Getty Images

IRELAND joined Australia at the top of the World Cup leaderboard after a 68 from Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in today's foursomes lifted them to 13 under par.

Starting the day two behind overnight leaders Australia, the Irish duo produced six birdies and two bogeys in the alternate shot format at the Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island in China.



It moved them level with Richard Green and Brendon Jones, who posted a 70. Scotland, meanwhile, are one off the pace on 12 under following a 69.



"Today was good," McIlroy told reporters.



"Both of us are very pleased about the score that we ended up shooting today. Anything in the 60s in the foursomes format is a very reasonable score out there.



"There is still a lot of golf to be played this week so it will be nice to get out there tomorrow again and enjoy the fourballs and be aggressive and make a few more birdies. We are very pleased with how today went and we are looking forward to the weekend."



Ireland began well, picking up three birdies over the front nine. Alternate bogeys and birdies followed from the 11th but a birdie at the 16th pulled them alongside Australia after the latter made two costly bogeys towards the end of their round.



"Alternate shot is a very difficult format. Rory really putted well today, which kept things together," said McDowell.



"I've struggled a little bit on the greens the last couple of days but I was happy the way I swung the club in general today again and Rory is playing lovely.



"We are very, very happy with that performance today, four under par in this format is a pretty good effort."



Australia began their second round in encouraging fashion as an eagle three at the sixth accompanied birdies at the second and fifth and a dropped shot at the fourth.



Another birdie at the 13th looked set to leave them top of the leaderboard going into the weekend but bogeys at the 15th and 18th dropped Green and Jones into a tie with Ireland.



"We spoke about our strategy last night, and in foursomes especially we decided that anything under par in this form is going to do all right. So a 70 today achieved that goal I guess," said Green.



"It was a little bit of a shame to have finished with a bogey but it's a very difficult finish to this golf course and a very demanding hole, 18."



Jones added: "It's a very stressful game. It's very difficult, because it's very hard to get any sort of rhythm in your golf swing in your game, because you might go four or five holes without hitting a driver. You might go a few holes without having a putt."



The Scottish pairing of Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher are also very much in contention following a 69 that leaves them 12 under par. They could have ended the day in a share of the lead but for a bogey at the last.



New Zealand, Spain and the United States are tied for fourth on 10 under par following rounds of 68, 69 and 70 respectively while England remain in touching distance on nine under following a 69.



After struggling over the front nine with three bogeys and just one birdie, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose turned their day around coming home as birdies at the 10th, 11th and 15th as well as an eagle two at the 16th kept their hopes alive.



"The back nine was very good after three bogeys on that front side, which was really frustrating," said Poulter.



"When we reflect on today, obviously five under on the back side is great, we had a couple of really good looks at making that seven under on the back nine, which would have been a really awesome finish.



"But I think it's more about probably the shots that we dropped today on that front side, which leaves us a little bit frustrated."



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