Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free five-under par round of 67 to make some progress on the leaderboard but he finds himself nine shots adrift of runaway leader Keith Mitchell at the halfway stage of the CJ CUP in Las Vegas.
McIlroy had spoken pre-tournament of taking a step back last time he played in the company of Mitchell, blown away by what a good player the American was, and now the prophet McIlroy has come to the fore as it’s Mitchell who’s stealing the headlines in Sin City after adding an eight-under 64 to his opening 62 to stretch clear at The Summit Club at 18-under par.
“You play with players like Keith Mitchell, right,” McIlroy said when explaining the depth on Tour pre-tournament.
“This is a very anecdotal story, but I played the final round with him at Quail Hollow last season and he was leading. He was maybe 1 ahead of me or whatever it was. He came out and he hits it in the left bunker on 1, hits an unbelievable 7-iron to like 10 feet and holes the putt.
“The field is so deep that people wouldn’t maybe pick a Keith Mitchell to win a tournament at the start of a week, but you play with him in a final round on a Sunday, he stopped me in my tracks. I was like, ‘he is a hell of a player’.”
Now the world number 14 will have to reel 137-ranked Mitchell in if he has eyes on a winning weekend in Vegas. Apart from three-putting the par-5 14th for par, albeit from 77-feet, McIlroy seemed to get the most from his round on Friday – not particularly dialled-in with his irons while the best birdie chance he missed was from 17-feet on the fifth.
He carded four birdies to the turn in a bright outward half but McIlroy would have to wait until the par-5 18th for his next gain; brilliantly finding the green in two from the fairway bunker before two-putting for his 67. At nine-under par, McIlroy sits in a share of 19th, nine shots back of Mitchell and four strokes back of Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Harry Higgs and Seonghyeon Kim who share second at 13-under.
As for Mitchell, he shows no signs of slowing down, carding an eagle and seven birdies as he cruised to his best 36-hole tally by some five strokes in the desert.
“I spent a lot of time in the last few days leading up to this tournament working hard on my game and it’s showing,” said Mitchell, whose only victory came in the Honda Classic two years ago. “I’m very thankful for that. Just shows you that hard work pays off as long as you’re doing the right things.”
Shane Lowry carded three back nine birdies to post a two-under 70 that leaves the Offaly man sharing 71st at one-under par in the 78-man field.
- Full scoring HERE