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Rory left to rue horror show as Finau steps up his bid for glory with stunning display

 

By Brian Keogh

The Halloween horror arrived early for Rory McIlroy as Tony Finau produced all the fireworks at the WGC HSBC Champions in China.

Finau is seeking a win that's eluded him since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach, and he's determined to keep pushing so the can put the cherry on top of a memorable season that brought him a Ryder Cup debut last month.

As McIlroy shot a five-over 77, racking up a triple bogey eight and a double bogey seven in his first eight holes to find himself 16 strokes off the pace on five-over, Finau (29) fired a five-under 67 to take a three-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose into the weekend on 11-under par.

"I played nicely," said Finau who birdied five of his first ten holes before following a double bogey at the 11th and a bogey at the 13th with three birdies in his last five holes.

"I was happy with the way I finished. I was pleased to make a few birdies coming down the stretch."

He knows he can't afford to take his size 14 1/2 shoes off the gas as he seeks a win to go with the ten top-10 finishes he's racked up already this year.

"I've got to stay in attack mode, continue to make birdies," he said of his gameplan. "And if I limit the mistakes, I think it will be a good weekend."

Rose is looking to retain the title, and while he might have enough with a runner-up finish to regain the world number one ranking from Brooks Koepka, who is tied 40th on two-over after a 74, he's feeling confident after a bogey-free 67.

"Tony is great, and he's due a win to be fair," Rose said. "He's done everything else this year, so I wouldn't put it past him or hold it against him if he did get the win, but there's a long way to go. Two rounds left."

Fleetwood (68) and Reed (72) are second and third in the Race to Dubai behind Francesco Molinari, who is two shots behind McIlroy after a 75.

But it appears that McIlroy, fourth-ranked, will make few inroads in the money list race this week unless he catches fire this weekend.

He had to make an eight-footer just to bogey the first, then took eight at the par-five second when he airmailed the green with a short iron downwind and found water, then duffed his fourth after a penalty drop and saw it run back into the lake before taking three more to get down from the water's edge for his eight.

Struggling on the greens and erratic off the tee, he bogeyed the seventh and double bogeyed the par-five eighth to be seven-over for the day before fighting back.

After a chip-in birdie at the ninth saw him go to the turn in six-over 42, he had three birdies and two bogeys on the back nine to end the day tied for 58th on five-over.

Belfast Telegraph

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