Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

McIlroy surges into Texas contention

Rory McIlroy is looking to hit form in time for next week's Masters at Augusta (AP)

Rory McIlroy allayed fears about the state of his game by storming into contention at the Valero Texas Open.

With the Masters just days away, the world number two shot a five-under-par 67 to follow his even-par opening round, and close in on the leaders at San Antonio.

The Northern Irishman was a late entry as he desperately sought to play himself into form for Augusta, and by the looks of his second 18 holes he has done precisely that. He finished off with birdies at 16, 17 and 18 to make an already good round a quite excellent one, tying with Charley Hoffman and KJ Choi for the lowest score of the day.

McIlroy had a 25-foot eagle putt at the last to go into a share of the lead, and he put it close, but he would have settled for five under at the start of the round and made sure of that by tapping in from inside a foot.

When McIlroy came in, Charley Hoffman, Daniel Summerhays and Steven Bowditch were in the clubhouse on six under, with Billy Horschel out on the course with the same score and three holes left. American Horschel added birdies at 17 and 18 to reach eight under for a two-shot lead after back-to-back 68s, and he has a three-stroke cushion over McIlroy.

As McIlroy ascended the leaderboard, he passed Padraig Harrington going the other way.

Dubliner Harrington had been four under after the opening round, just one off the lead, but at one stage in his second 18 holes he slipped back to one under. Starting on the back nine, he dropped shots at 11, 13 and 17 before repairing much of the damage on the front nine, with birdies at the sixth and ninth lifting him to a 73 and a healthier three under.

McIlroy was one of six players on five under, with Brendon de Jonge, Jim Furyk, KJ Choi, Retief Goosen and Ben Kohles keeping him company. Furyk made bogey at the last, his only dropped shot of the round.

First-round leaders Matt Bettencourt and Peter Tomasulo both followed their 67s on Thursday with disappointing scores of 73 to drop back to four under.

Alongside Harrington on three under was Scotland's Martin Laird after a 71, with Englishmen Brian Davis and David Lynn steady on two under after their respective rounds of 72 and 70. Ireland's Shane Lowry also carded a 72 to be two under through 36 holes. Ian Poulter and Charl Schwartzel just made the cut at one over after shooting rounds of 75 and 73.

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