RORY McIlroy produced a blistering finish to day two of the Omega European Masters and sits just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend, at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
Malaysia’s Gavin Green posted a round of 64 from the very first group of the day to set the target at 11-under par.
And while nobody could catch him, McIlroy whipped the crowds in Crans Montana into a frenzy as he picked up five shots in his last five holes in a second round 63.
McIlroy said: “Going out this afternoon eight shots off the lead, you know there are scores out there, but you don’t want to push too hard. Getting myself much closer to the lead going into the weekend was nice.
“I felt like I swung it a bit better today than yesterday. I hit the driver better, definitely hit better iron shots,” McIlroy added.
“The confidence that gives you throughout the round to take on that pin on 16 for example. If I hadn’t hit the shots I hit previously, I might have gone a bit left of it.
“I’m excited to give myself another chance to win. Would have been easy for me to take my foot off the gas after last week, but I really wanted to come here and play well,” said last week’s winner of the $15million FedEx Cup at East Lake GC, in Georgia.
“Hopefully two more good days of golf left in me, give myself a chance to win this tournament, which I’ve had a great chance to win before. I would love to add this title to the list.”
The Northern Irishman came within a whisker of claiming his maiden European Tour victory in Crans in 2008.
And in his three appearances in the Swiss mountains McIlroy has never finished lower than seventh.
The World No. 2 looked right at home from the moment he teed off eight shots behind Green, who represented Malaysia in the 2016 Rio Olympics, in the second round.
Green, who is looking for his maiden European Tour victory having won 21 times as an amateur, said: “It was just a little bit of misjudgment on the first, and then things got hot.
I played well, hit a lot of greens, made some putts. Just kept the ball rolling. I’m just trying to enjoy it and play as well as I can. That’s all I can ask for.
“The atmosphere and views are amazing. In Malaysia we don’t have anything like this. I’ve been here a couple of times now and the views never get old.
“The altitude is similar to where I went to university in New Mexico, Albuquerque, it’s a few thousand feet too. I’m pretty used to how altitude works. It’s just when it’s cold it gets a little tricky. But adjustments made and it’s been really fun.”
Tommy Fleetwood, the 2017 Race to Dubai winner, is also in the group at 10-under alongside McIlroy, Australia’s Wade Ormsby, Austrian Matthias Schwab and Argentina’s Andres Romero – whose round of 61 was the lowest of the week so far.
Fleetwood said: “I’ve worked on the putting green the last couple of days on my stroke, so it’s just nice to see some roll in.
“I feel like we’ve read them well and not given anything away on the greens, which is a massive key to scoring. Hopefully I can keep that up for a couple of days.
The runner-up at the Open at Royal Portrush added: “Out here you are playing against 156 of the best players in Europe. Every week there will be 10, 20 guys at least playing really well.
“To make the cut these days you’ve got to play really well. And then there’s the guys who are playing really, really well. Seventy-two holes is a long time to keep concentration.
“When you tap in on the first on Thursday morning it’s equally as important as when you finish on Sunday.
“It’s just nice to keep putting myself in positions and hopefully I’ll start winning more. Maybe that will start this week,” said Fleetwood, whose last win came in Abu Dhabi at the start of 2018.
Schwab, looking for his maiden win in Europe, said: “Bogey free after two rounds is great.
“Other than that, I played really well yesterday and I played solid today, not as good – my irons and my long game wasn’t as sharp – but still I didn’t make too many mistakes and I’m happy with where I’m at.
“I worked out a schedule for the last 10 or 11 events which fit me and my game. I was trying to include enough rest time as well,” said Schwab, who has two top fives this season.
“It worked well in Prague, last week I had a nice week at home, and I guess it’s working well again this week.
“I’ve watched Rory on TV growing up, so it’s awesome that he’s up there. But in the end it doesn’t really matter who’s around me or who’s in the lead, I’ll just try to do my best to play good golf.”
Italian Lorenzo Gagli and Hideto Tanihara, from Japan, are two shots further back at eight-under.
The pair are a shot clear of 55-year-old 2010 champion Miguel Ángel Jiménez, his fellow Spaniard Adri Arnaus and another Italian in Renato Paratore.
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