Rory McIlroy suffers sinking feeling
A last-hole gamble backfired on Rory McIlroy as the former world number one suffered a round of two halves in the WGC-HSBC Champions on Friday.
McIlroy held a two-shot lead after a sparkling opening 65 at Sheshan International Golf Club and was three clear when he followed five straight pars with birdies at the sixth, seventh and eighth.
However, the back nine was an entirely different story as McIlroy bogeyed the 11th after catching the face of a fairway bunker with his escape and dropped another shot on the 15th by failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
The 24-year-old scrambled pars on the next two holes before his drive on the par-five 18th stopped just a few feet from the lake which runs down the right-hand side of the hole, leaving him 228 yards to the green, all over water.
McIlroy had no hesitation in taking the shot on, but saw his second shot come up several yards short of the green in the hazard. After taking a penalty drop back onto the fairway, McIlroy hit a wonderful fourth shot to 15ft, but missed the par putt and signed for a level-par 72.
That left the two-time major winner on seven under and three shots off the lead now held by Dustin Johnson, who had charged through the field.
Johnson, four behind McIlroy following an opening 69, birdied six of his first seven holes - his only par coming on the third - and narrowly missed further birdie chances on the eighth and ninth to be out in 30.
The big-hitting American dropped his first shot of the day after missing the green on the 10th, but responded with birdies on the 13th and 14th to reach 10 under par.
McIlroy shared the clubhouse lead with former Masters champion Bubba Watson and former Ryder Cup player Boo Weekley, the American duo recording rounds of 69 and 67 respectively.
England's Tommy Fleetwood and Spain's Sergio Garcia were a shot behind on six under, with US Open champion Justin Rose and Open champion Phil Mickelson on five under.
Mickelson, who took nine on his penultimate hole on Thursday in an opening 71, birdied five of his last six holes in his 68, dropping a shot on the reachable par-four 16th after hooking his tee shot into the water.
Rose's water trouble came on the last, the Englishman thinning a bunker shot across the green and into the hazard on his way to a closing bogey and round of 71.
Johnson extended his lead with a birdie on the 16th and, when he made his 10th of the day on the last, the 29-year-old had equalled the course record with a superb 63.
At 12 under par he led by five shots from McIlroy, Watson and Weekley as the second day came to a close.