Rory McIlroy brilliantly muscled his way to within a shot of the Swiss summit after an Omega European Masters matching best of 63 on day two at Crans Montana.
McIlroy, in a four-hole stretch near the end of his round, was very much in a class of his own in bringing a record Crans-sur-Sierre course crowd to their feet going birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie in moving to 10-under par heading to the weekend.
Malaysia’s Gavin Green, a former Asian Tour No. 1 and of Portuguese, Irish and Chinese descent, heads the field in signing a 64 to lead by a shot on 11-under par.
McIlroy is among five players sharing second including Argentinean Anders Romero who went within a shot of the course record in signing for a 61.
The World No. 2 ranked McIlroy was two-under for his round and five-under for the co-sanctioned event heading to the par-4, 14th.
He then took to the upslopes of the Alpine course thanks to a brilliant four-hole stretch when he birdied the 14th, holed a curling 15-foot putt for eagle on the par-5 15th before draining a four-footer for birdie at the par-4 16th ahead of also birding the par-4 17th.
McIlroy had posted a 63 on day one of the 2008 European Masters, the event he would lose in a playoff, while his score was just two shots shy of a 61 he shot last July on route to his RBC Canadian Open success.
“Funny, it didn’t feel like a round of an eagle and eight birdies,” McIlroy said smiling.
“I did hit the ball a little better than yesterday and while there was still a couple of mistakes, like the bogey on the par-5 ninth, the finish was obviously pretty good.
“I hit some really nice shots coming in. The eagle on 15 was lovely while the iron shots I hit coming down the stretch on 16 and 17 were nice.
“Going out this afternoon as I did eight shots behind the lead, you know there is a low score out there but at the same time you do not want to push too hard.
“So, to get myself closer to the lead going into the weekend is very nice.”
McIlroy won three-times on the recently concluded 2018/19 PGA Tour season but has not tasted success on the regular European Tour in over three years since capturing the 2016 Irish Open at The K Club.
He’s now chasing what would be a 14th European Tour title and the 27th victory of his pro career, and after the Swiss heartbreak of 2008 when he horribly let slip a first European Tour title. McIlroy is now clearly the player to beat with two rounds to play.
And this after his $US16.7 victory payout last Sunday in Atlanta.
“It is very easy for me to be patient this week after what just happened last week, so even if I do make a bogey, I’m not …. I’m having a good time here and enjoying myself,” he said.
“The thing is also I have learned to enjoy strategic golf courses including East Lake last week where you do hit a few more drivers than up here in Switzerland.
“I’ve won around East Lake twice, I won on another par-70 course this year and that was the Canadian Open while Sawgrass is also a bit of a strategic golf course, so I am learning to love that style of golf.
“Honestly, I enjoy that more when you have to think about it just that little bit and you certainly have to think about it up here.
“I’m excited and yeah, it’s good to give myself another chance to win and especially as it would have been very easy to take my foot off the gas after last week but I really wanted to come here to play well.
“Hopefully, I have two more good days of golf in me ahead of a two-week break, and I give myself a chance to win this tournament that I have wanted to win before, and had the great chance to win before.
“I would love to add this title to the list.”
McIlroy finds himself the lone Irishman tackling the Alpine course over the final two days with the trio of Padraig Harrington, Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan heading back down the slopes after missing the cut.
Harrington, who celebrates his 48th birthday tomorrow, and Moynihan are headed to Hamburg for next Thursday’s starting Porsche European Open where they will be joined by Michael Hoey, while Dunne is back home and in need of a ‘regroup’ break.
Harrington did manage an eagle but just three birdies over the two days along with two double-bogeys, both on day two, plus three bogeys in scores of 71 and 73 but his play proved little cause to be blowing out any candles just yet.
Dunne was next best of the Irish with scores of 73 and 74 but with the Greystone golfer never really recovering bogeying three of his opening four holes for an eventual seven-over par total.
The World No. 225 bogeyed both the first and final holes on both days and in between managed seven birdies but also another six bogeys and a pair of doubles.
Dunne has now missed the cut this season in nine of 17 events, earning 230,132 euro in the process but looking likely to now drop outside the top-100 on the Race to Dubai.
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