Friday, March 13, 2009

McIlroy hangs on in there but

Mickelson leads by two

(With additional words by Colin Farquharson)
Rory McIlroy showed the nerve to match his talent as he reached the halfway point at Doral firmly in contention at the WGC-CA Championship at the Doral Golf & Country Club, Miami in Florida. The 19-year-old from Northern Ireland, pictured right, would become the youngest winner in US PGA Tour history if he were to conquer the Blue Monster course (which is playing surprisingly "easy" judging by the scores) and the top 70 golfers in the world in an 80-man field on Sunday - and he gave every indication he will still be in the hunt after finishing his second round with an eagle and a birdie.
The teenager carded a six-under round of 66 today to stand tied for third place with Kenny Perry of the United States at 10 under par 134, three strokes behind clubhouse leader Phil Mickelson, who posted a 66.
Another American, Nick Watney, is in second place on his own at 11 under 133.
McIlroy from Holywood, near Belfast got into contention after bouncing back from a run of two bogeys in three holes at his 14th and 16th that sent him down to seven under.
McIlroy rallied at his penultimate hole, the long eighth, with an eagle 3 after sending in a 266-yard second shot with his three wood to seven feet. He then birdied the ninth after an approach shot from 203 yards to eight feet, from where he holed out.
World number three Mickelson had finished in style for his 65 on Thursday, chipping in for birdies at the both the 17th and 18th holes to complete a back nine of six birdies and no bogeys.
It led the American left-hander, a three-time major champion, to state he was playing as well as he ever had, and he started in confident mood with a birdie at the 10th on Friday.
Mickelson overcame a bogey 6 at his third hole before hitting his stride with four birdies before striking gold again with a chip-in from 33 feet at the seventh, his 16th, for a birdie 3.
No sooner had he joined Prayad Marksaeng in the lead at 12 under than the Thai carded a triple-bogey 7 at the final hole to drop back to nine under for the tournament after a second-round 70.
Mickelson holed another birdie at his 17th on the way to a second-round 66. After an erratic start to the 2009 season, "Lefty" is suddenly looking like he has found all the answers, although he is still missing fairways and greens but his short game is terrific.
Perry hit an eight-under 64, equalling Spain's Alvaro Quiros for the lowest round of the day, while Camilo Villegas of Colombia shot a four-under 68 to take him to nine under alongside Marksaeng and Australia's Rod Pampling.
England's (and Ireland's) representatives are doing well.
Ian Poulter is in joint eighth position after a 67 for 136.
Paul Casey (66), Oliver Wilson (70) and Open champion Padraig Harrington (71) are sharing 15th place on 137.
Luke Donald is bracketed in 24th place after a 69 for 139 and Ross Fisher also had a 69 for 140 andd a share of 26th.
But if Mickelson carries on the way he is doing, it might well be a case of "Who's gonna be second?"
And what about Tiger Woods? Well, he's playing the way you would expect a man who was not only out of competitive golf but out of any kind of golf for so many months after winning last year's US Open on one leg -- the other one needed a major operation.
Tiger shot a one-under-par 71 on Thursday and a two-under-par 70 today for 141. If he weren't the world No 1, you would say that's a great effort, all things considered. But, because, he's the world No. 1, the expectation of the fans - and Woods himself - is that he should be in contention.
He might well be yet before Sunday's finish.

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