Rory takes huge step on road to redemption
RORY McILROY buried memories of his implosion at The Masters under a spectacular hail of birdies yesterday as he swept into the weekend at the Maybank Malaysian Open on 11-under par.
His round was good enough for a share of the second-round lead with Sweden's Alexander Noren.
Since his arrival at Kuala Lumpur Country Club on Wednesday, McIlroy has insisted he was a lot less upset than others about last Sunday's back-nine collapse at Augusta National.
Well, the 21-year-old certainly proved that point yesterday as he equalled the course record set by Noren on Thursday with a 64 of his own.
Displaying astonishing physical and mental resilience, McIlroy landed eight birdies in a flawless display of golf in draining heat and humidity.
His driving and iron play were excellent, and the Holywood youngster putted with comfort and assurance on relatively slow and heavily-grained greens.
McIlroy has had to overcome several significant obstacles this week, not least 20 hours of flying across 12 time zones, followed by the late arrival of his golf clubs on Wednesday evening, which prevented him from playing a practice round.
Leaning heavily on the knowledge picked up by Dubai caddie JP Fitzgerald during a fast reconnaissance trip around the course on Wednesday, McIlroy posted an impressive 69 in Thursday's first round.
Opening with a birdie on the par-five 10th yesterday, he got up and down nicely to save par at the next and barely missed a fairway or green thereafter.
McIlroy struck his ball with such precision that the longest of his eight birdie putts was the 14-footer he potted for a three at 16 as he swept to the turn in five-under par.
"I never really put myself under any pressure out there," he said with a nonchalant smile.
"The greens were a lot better for us this morning. There wasn't as much grain so I was able to pick the line of my putts better and, luckily, a few of them went in."
Asked if the quality of his play this week had surprised him, McIlroy went on: "Not really. I knew I was hitting it well last week at The Masters. I just needed to get over the jet lag and keep it going."
Youth certainly is on his side in the battle with jet lag and the exhaustion that holding the lead for 63 holes at a Major championship inevitably entails, though McIlroy admitted he was whacked on Thursday evening.
"We were getting ready to go out for dinner but after I got out of the shower, I was so tired, I decided to opt for room service," he said.
"I might go and have a nap this afternoon, go to the gym this evening and, hopefully, get another good night's sleep before the morning."
Newly-crowned Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Claret Jug holder Louis Oosthuizen, who journeyed with McIlroy from Augusta, certainly weren't playing with the Ulsterman's sparkle as an electrical storm forced play to an early conclusion shortly after lunch.
The two South Africans were on the projected cut line (level par) after 13 holes when the weather closed in and were likely to need to pick up at least a shot when play resumes this morning.
Peter Lawrie believed he had "a lot to play for" as he headed into the weekend tied with world No 1 Martin Kaymer, among others, on three-under following his second-round 71. The Dubliner's morale was boosted by his flawless performance on the front nine (his homeward half), where he picked up three nice birdies.
Gareth Maybin, with just one birdie and no bogeys in his 71 yesterday, was keeping fingers tightly crossed that level-par would be good enough when more than half of the field complete their second round this morning. Despite a nice 70, Michael Hoey appeared beyond the pale on one-over.
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