Erratic McIlroy eight off lead as his hopes fade in Race for Dubai
Shane Lowry surged into contention for the Nedbank Golf Challenge as Rory McIlroy endured another roller coaster round in Sun City.
The world No 70 closed with a birdie to add a three-under 69 to his opening 71 and move up to tied fourth, five strokes behind Sergio Garcia on four-under par.
But it was another frustrating day for McIlroy at the Gary Player Country Club as he posted an erratic, one-under 71 that left him where he started the day, eight behind Garcia.
The Holywood man knows he can afford to finish no worse than second if he's to have any chance of overtaking Francesco Molinari with a win in next week's season-ending DP World Tour Championship and claim his fourth Race to Dubai title.
But after starting promisingly with birdies at the second and third, he missed too many fairways and mixed three bogeys with two birdies mid-round, even missing a two-foot tiddler for par at the eighth.
"It's been a frustrating couple of days," confessed McIlroy, who is tied for 19th on one under par.
"My game is not really where I want it to be, but I've got two more opportunities this week to try and put a couple of good rounds together and then go to Dubai and try to finish the season on a high.
"I need to tidy up my game off the tee, and then if I do that, you can give yourself a lot of chances around here, but you need to get the ball in the fairway first."
Lowry, who is 41st in the Race to Dubai but targeting a top-30 spot that would earn him exemption at next year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush, birdied the second and fifth and after a bogey at the eighth had a birdie four at the 14th and rolled in another from eight feet at the last.
On the PGA Tour, Graeme McDowell's second successive 70 left him a shot outside the projected cut on two-under par.