Star Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell showed their Major-winning talents as they moved into a share of the lead on the second day of the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup on Friday.
The pair fired a four-under-par 68 in the foursomes to join Australian duo Brendan Jones and Richard Green at 13-under. Ireland and Australia lead by one shot over Scotland heading into the weekend at Mission Hills Resort in Haikou, China.
Ireland mixed six birdies and two bogeys in the alternate shot format as world No.2 McIlroy and McDowell – his predecessor as US Open champion – found their form. “I think both of us are very pleased about the score that we ended up shooting today,” said McIlroy. “Anything in the 60s in the foursomes format is a very reasonable score.
“There is still a lot of golf to be played this week so it will be nice to get out there again tomorrow and enjoy the fourballs. We’ll aim to be aggressive and make a few more birdies.”
McDowell said his partner’s putting had been a crucial factor in the round. “I’ve struggled a little bit on the greens the last couple of days,” he admitted. “But I was happy the way I swung the club in general today and Rory is playing lovely. He really putted well today, which kept things together.”
McIlroy and McDowell are looking to lift the trophy after finishing joint runners-up to Italy in the last staging of the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup two years ago.
Jones and Green had started the day two shots clear of the field but bogeyed the final hole for a 70 to fall back level with Ireland. “It was a bit of a shame to finish with that bogey but 18 is a very demanding hole,” said Green. “Hopefully we can work it out for the weekend and not do that on Sunday. We spoke about our strategy last night and we decided that anything under par in this format is going to do all right. So a 70 today achieved that goal.”
Jones revealed the difficulties of adapting to the alternate shot format. “It’s hard to get any sort of rhythm in your swing because you might go four or five holes without hitting a driver, you might go a few holes without having a putt, so it feels like a very stop-start game,” he said. “We handled it very well early. We are pretty happy with two-under and we are still tied for the lead, so it’s nice to be in that position.”
Scottish pair Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher returned a score of 69 and then revealed the planning that had gone into their round. “The way this course sets up, the person who hits off the odd holes has eight approach shots on the back nine and the other person only has one,” revealed Laird. “Stephen has been hitting his irons great all week so we decided that he was going to go on the odd holes and it paid off because we had a good round today.”
Spain, New Zealand and the United States all finished the day on 10-under, three shots off the pace, while English duo Ian Poulter and Justin Rose are lurking dangerously after a 69 moved them to nine-under, level with Mexico and the Netherlands.
Chinese pair Liang Wenchong and Zhang Xinjun delighted the home fans with a 68 to reach eight-under, five off the lead.
Twenty-eight nations are chasing glory at the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup, which is being held from 24-27 November.
The 2011 tournament marks the fourth occasion that OMEGA, the Swiss maker of prestige watches, has been title sponsor of the World Cup of Golf.
The tournament continues with the third round on Saturday when the teams will revert to fourballs.
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