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McIlroy makes hay

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy came right back into the thick of things and is just one shot behind the leaders at the halfway stage of the Masters in Augusta.

McIlroy reached five under before failing to get up and down from a bunker at the 17th, but then saved par from off the final green for a fine 69. This, of course, after he began the event with a double bogey six on his return to the course where he led by four with a round to go last April, then crashed to an 80.

After a best-of-the-day 67 Fred Couples shares top spot with fellow American Jason Dufner on five under, one in front of McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson.

McIlroy had finished his opening 71 with back-to-back birdies and said: "That was huge and it was nice just to get up and get straight back at it.

"It put me in a positive frame of mind. I know I am playing well - my recent results (only one finish outside the top five since last August) show that.

"I just wanted to come and play and put myself in position to win another tournament, another major."

Two months after his Masters meltdown a year ago he won the US Open by eight.

Ian Poulter reached two under, but he went in the water for a double bogey at the short 16th and after a second successive 72 is alongside Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington.

Graeme McDowell (72) made it through on three over, but Open champion Darren Clarke misses the cut after crashing to an 81 and 10 over playing with Couples.