Shanghai: World number one Rory McIlroy on Friday set himself up for a weekend assault on the $7 million BMW Masters at Lake Malaren after a second round scintillating 65 took him to 12-under par, two shots behind halfway leader Peter Hanson.
On a day of low scoring on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Shanghai, Sweden’s Hanson was one of three players to shoot an eight-under par round of 64 following Shane Lowry of Ireland and fellow Swede Robert Karlsson earlier on Friday.
McIlroy had complained of headaches during his opening 67 on Thursday, which the Northern Irishman put down to pollution. On Friday he had to battle the sound of fireworks, music and piledrivers around the course to get the job done.
“Fireworks? I thought they were gunshots going off there,” he laughed.
“You’re always going to have distractions out there, whether it is people with cameras or movement in the crowd.
“Once you’re over your shot, you’re sort of in your own little bubble and your zone and you don’t really notice those sort of things.”
One of the only semblances of trouble for the double major winner came on the final hole where McIlroy’s tee shot found the right-hand rough.
But it was in area trampled by spectators that gave him a good enough lie to put his approach to 10 feet and safely two-putt for par.
“It was very good day,” said McIlroy. “I played very well and gave myself plenty of opportunities. Overall it was just a very good round of golf and obviously [puts me] in a great position going into the weekend.”
A 64 must have been the last thing on Hanson’s mind when he opened his round Friday with a bogey on the first hole.
“It’s amazing how many good rounds come after a bogey on the first,” he said.
“I got it straight back with a birdie on three. I think that’s pretty much the key to my two good rounds,” added the Ryder Cup player who had carded a 66 on Thursday.
McIlroy, the US PGA champion, is looking for another big pay day to tighten his grip on the Race To Dubai as he seeks to emulate Luke Donald’s feat of last year by winning the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.
He said one of the keys was trying to make it a habit of being top of the leaderboard.
“Well it looks like it’s quite routine at the moment,” McIlroy said. “The more you are in this position the more comfortable you become and, yeah, I like the fact that most weeks when I tee it up I can get myself into contention.”
Meanwwhile, South Africa’s Jbe Kruger said he wanted to play with Tiger Woods every day after upstaging the American legend with a “dream” round at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia on Friday.
Kruger, ignoring big galleries, soaring temperatures and the intimidating presence of the 14-time Major winner, put together a brilliant 64 at the par-71 Mines Resort & Golf Club, overshadowing Woods’s 67.
“I’m always pumped up,” insisted the small, slight Kruger, 26, who strode the course with vigorous intent and now lies second, two shots off leader Robert Garrigus.
“Just to shoot anything, level par, anything, was a dream. It was pretty cool,” he added.
“I think playing with him definitely made me concentrate a bit harder. That is one thing I’ve been lacking the last couple of months. So I think I want to play with him every day.”
Kruger, from Bloemfontein, has won three tournaments so far in his career - compared with Woods’s 74, the second biggest haul in history.
He said his round “definitely” went better than he could have dreamed, and had already done wonders for his self-belief.
“You’ve proven yourself probably against the best golfer that’s alive at the moment. And to have played with him is pretty cool,” he said.
Kruger shot 66 on the first day, despite damaging his eight-iron and being unable to use it for much of his round - a handicap he blamed for a double bogey on the last hole.
“I got it fixed, and I actually used it once,” he said of the club. “Yesterday I probably would have used it six times after I bent it. So you know, Murphy’s Law.”
And he said he hoped to continue his hot form into the weekend at the US$6.1 million event, which is co-sanctioned by the US PGA and the Asian Tour.
“I think I’ll probably just try to do the same. I’ve been playing well. I can’t really play much better than I am at the moment,” Kruger said. “The key is to hit the fairways, hit the greens, and take it from there.”