Friday 24 March 2017

Video - Rory McIlroy magic fires him into the lead at WGC-Mexico Championship

Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Rory McIlroy storms into the lead after a sparkling round of 65
Rory McIlroy storms into the lead after a sparkling round of 65

Rory McIlroy turned in one of his special rounds as he took control at the top of the leaderboard in the £7.9million WGC-Mexico Championship - but his two-shot lead could have been even more convincing as missed putts left him frustrated.

Playing in only his second tournament of 2017 as he battles back from a rib injury, McIlroy’s approach play was as sensational as his putting as he pieced together a sparkling round of 65 to steal a march on his rivals.

McIlroy will start the third round two shots ahead of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Ross Fischer, as he looks to return to top spot in the world rankings with a win this weekend.

The Irishman will reclaim top spot in the world rankings for the first time since August 2015 by winning his third World Golf Championship title, as long as current number one Johnson finished joint fourth or worse.

While McIlroy can reflect on a sensational round that put him in pole position to win a third WGC event, he will reflect on disappointment at the 17th and 18th, as he dropped a shot on the penultimate hole and then missed a shot putt to get to ten under at the last.

“Overall it was great,” said McIlroy. “Starting the day, I would have taken a 65, but I feel like I could have been a few more ahead.

“Look I’m in a great position heading into the weekend and I feel like I’m playing great.

“I tried to approach this week just to see how it went. Take each day as it comes. Through two days, I feel great. My body is in great condition and if I keep playing well, I have a chance going into the weekend."

His sparkling form comes despite a bout of food poisoning in the run up to the event, he reached the turn in his controlled second round in just 31 shots.

He moved three clear of the field after holding a majestic nine iron at the 15th and then had chances to storm clear with chances on each of the final three holes.

McIlroy started the day by driving the green on the short par-four first before three-putting for par, but then birdied the second, fourth, sixth and ninth to reach the turn in 31.

After a bogey on the 12th, McIlroy hit back in style with a birdie on the next before enjoying a stroke of luck on the 14th, where his approach landed 15 feet left of the flag but kicked back onto the green and rolled into the cup.

There was nothing fortunate about another birdie on the par-five 15th, but the Northern Irishman then three-putted the 17th - and threw his ball into a greenside water hazard in frustration - before seeing his close-range birdie putt on the last lip out.

Meanwhile, five-time major winner Mickelson showed few ill effects after being forced to change his caddie at the start of his second round.

Mickelson's long-time caddie, Jim 'Bones' Mackay, lasted just three holes of Friday's second round before being forced to leave the course due to a stomach virus which has affected several players in Mexico City.

Fortunately for Mickelson, his brother Tim had been alerted to the problem and was on hand to take over on the bag as his sibling looked to remain in contention for a third World Golf Championship title.

With Mickelson in close attendance, Saturday's lead match at the event being played on the outskirts of Mexico City looks set to be a blockbuster occasion.

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