Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

McIlroy loses ground to Stricker

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy slipped to three shots off the lead at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village as a stunning hole-in-one saw Steve Stricker take control.

The Ulsterman, who had shared the first-round lead with American Chris Riley, finished his second in Dublin, Ohio with the clubhouse lead after carding a level-par round to be six-under-par for the tournament.

However, Stricker came on strong and thanks to his later tee time stormed past the European Ryder Cup star to lead by three.

The hole-in-one was crucial for Stricker as a six-iron on the 188-yard eighth, having played the back nine first, found its way directly into the hole before a birdie on his last gave him a five-under round of 67.

The amazing finish saw him leap from a group of five sharing the lead to an outright advantage by three shots at the half-way point.

"It's a shock when you see that go in, obviously," Stricker, nine under overall on 135, said. "But in a good way! It was a great way to finish the round."

McIlroy, at 72 on Saturday, is level now with Ricky Barnes (70), Jonathan Byrd (67) and Australian Rod Pampling (66). The 22-year-old picked up three bogies in his front nine but managed to pull shots back with birdies coming on the second, fifth and seventh.

A good back nine, in which he carded a further three birdies, was damaged by a double-bogey on the par-four 14th and another bogey on the 18th.

"I felt as if I played good enough to shoot something in the 60s, but I just made too many mistakes out there," said the Northern Irishman.

Britain's new world number one Luke Donald is bubbling under the surface, five-under on 139 after a strong finish comprising successive birdies on his last two for a 69.

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