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McIlroy shares half-way lead after making a splash for bogey on final hole

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy refused to let a last-hole bogey ruin some "ideal preparation" for the Open Championship as Masters champion Danny Willett suffered more frustration ahead of the season's third major.

McIlroy carded a superb 66 in testing conditions at Le Golf National to claim a share of the half-way lead in the French Open as Willett's last competitive appearance before Troon ended in a second consecutive missed cut.

Six birdies in the first 14 holes had taken McIlroy into the outright lead in his first event since missing the cut in the US Open, only for the 27-year-old to drive into the water on the 18th for the second day running.

The resulting bogey left the world number four in a five-way tie for the lead on five under par alongside Mikko Ilonen, Brandon Stone, Thongchai Jaidee and Wang Jeunghun, who won back-to-back titles in Morocco and Mauritius earlier this year.

"It's a really good day's work," said McIlroy, who revealed after his opening 71 that he had whittled 17 swing thoughts "down to about five" as he worked on eradicating some bad habits from his game.

"I can't let a bit of a disappointing finish taint a really good day. I felt for the most part I controlled my ball well and holed some good putts. Even the ones that didn't go in looked like they were going to and I'm in a great position going into the weekend.

"It's a work in progress and it doesn't feel very natural at the minute, it's quite mechanical and I am concentrating a lot but if I set up well it tends to go where I want it to."

e Tiger Woods has announced he will not be playing at the Open Championship at Royal Troon later this month.

The former World No. 1 yesterday confirmed that he would not take part in the third major of the year as he continues to make his way back from injury.

Woods' place will be taken by Australian Marcus Fraser meaning Englishman Luke Donald is promoted to first reserve.

e Members of Royal Troon have voted in favour of allowing female members to join the club for the first time.

Troon was the only remaining all-male club on the Open rotation after the R&A banned Muirfield from hosting the event for voting against allowing women to join in May.

Troon said that its members voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of the motion.

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