| 7.5°C Dublin

McIlroy in striking distance as Tour sweats over virus crisis

Close

Eye on the ball: Rory McIlroy, one of the day’s late starters, follows his shot on the fifth hole during his second round at the Travelers Championship.

Eye on the ball: Rory McIlroy, one of the day’s late starters, follows his shot on the fifth hole during his second round at the Travelers Championship.

USA TODAY Sports

Eye on the ball: Rory McIlroy, one of the day’s late starters, follows his shot on the fifth hole during his second round at the Travelers Championship.

The PGA Tour may be sweating over a coronavirus crisis, but Rory McIlroy's chances of success remain in rude health despite a couple of second-round wobbles at the Travelers Championship.

The Co Down man (31) is just four shots off the 13-under halfway lead - held by veteran Phil Mickelson (50), part of a stellar playing group that also included McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau - after a two-under 68.

McIlroy's round included two first-nine bogeys and an impressive par save on the 13th, after his tee shot found the water.

Four birdies, however - three on the front nine and one on the par-three 11th - kept McIlroy on the right side of par and tied for fourth spot on nine-under, adding nicely to his scintillating opening-round 63 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Will Gordon, the world's 561st-ranked player who was only in the field on a sponsor's invite, shot a 62 to reach halfway on 12-under par, one shot behind Mickelson and level with Canada's Mackenzie Hughes.

Fears

Shane Lowry will also be teeing it up this weekend, a chip-in birdie at the par-three 16th easing his cut fears on his way to a one-under 69, and a five-under total.

It is not just the Travelers Championship leaderboard that the PGA Tour is closely monitoring, but the coronavirus withdrawal charts as well.

Yesterday, Denny McCarthy and Bud Cauley made it seven golfers to have pulled out this week.

McCarthy tested positive for Covid-19 before his second round, and playing partner Cauley also withdrew, as a precaution.

That left the bizarre spectacle of the third member of that group, England's Matt Wallace, playing as a one-ball. Whether it was wise for Wallace to continue is a moot point - he and Cauley tested negative after the McCarthy news was confirmed.

McCarthy, a 27-year-old American, shot an opening 67, but despite testing negative on Tuesday, he began to suffer during that first round.

"I was feeling pretty sore and tired after the round," McCarthy said. "I didn't think much of it because I practised a lot Monday through Wednesday.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and my body was really achy and sore, and I figured something was wrong."

A test confirmed his fears. The world No 180 and Cauley are in good company; Brooks Koepka, the world No 4, scratched when caddie Ricky Elliot tested positive, as did Koepka's younger brother, Chase.

Graeme McDowell returned to Orlando on Wednesday after his bagman, Ken Comboy, was struck down.

World No 5 Webb Simpson, last week's winner, withdrew after his daughter tested positive.

With Cameron Champ pulling out after his own positive test on Tuesday, emulating Nick Watney at the RBC Heritage, McCarthy becomes the third player to contract Covid-19 since the circuit resumed.

In an impassioned press conference on Wednesday, Jay Monahan, the Tour's commissioner, insisted they were not cancelling the $7.4million (€6.6m) event and implied the odd positive test was inevitable, and his stance was supported by several high-profile players, including McIlroy.

However, Monahan issued a stern warning to the field to follow the protocols and made changes to the health and safety system. McCarthy's plight will bring that system under increased scrutiny. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Travelers Championship, Live, Sky Sports, 12.0pm

Telegraph.co.uk