A last-hole gamble backfired on Rory McIlroy as Dustin Johnson stormed into a commanding lead in the second round of the WGC-HSBC Champions on Friday.
McIlroy held a two-shot lead after a sparkling opening 65 at Sheshan International Golf Club and was three clear when he followed five straight pars with birdies at the sixth, seventh and eighth.
However, the back nine was an entirely different story as McIlroy bogeyed the 11th after catching the face of a fairway bunker with his escape and dropped another shot on the 15th by failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
The 24-year-old scrambled pars on the next two holes before his drive on the par-five 18th stopped just a few feet from the lake which runs down the right-hand side of the hole, leaving him 228 yards to the green, all over water.
McIlroy had no hesitation in taking the shot on, but saw his second come up several yards short of the green in the hazard. After taking a penalty drop back onto the fairway, McIlroy hit a wonderful fourth shot from 250 yards to 15 feet but missed the par putt and signed for a level-par 72.
That left the two-time major winner on seven under and five shots behind Johnson, who had charged through the field with a course record-equalling 63.
“Disappointing, frustrating,” was how McIlroy summed up his round to reporters.
“I obviously played nicely on the front nine and then started to hit a lot of sloppy shots on the back. I missed the last six greens in a row, seven on the back nine, so a bit of work is needed on the range this afternoon.
“I hit a couple of bad shots and then I guess I let it affect me a little bit and then I started to doubt myself sometimes. I didn’t hit a lot of quality shots on the back nine.
“It would have been nice to play a bit better and start tomorrow with a few more shots in hand but I guess I’m in a decent position going into the weekend, and still have a great chance at winning this tournament.”
Graeme McDowell is a shot further back on six under par but has high hopes of closing the gap over the final two rounds.
“I hit some good shots today. Played very solidly yesterday. Today was a little off, like I say, but I am happy to shoot three-under par,” said GMAC.
“I’m in a decent position going into the weekend. This is a golf
course that the long guys like but it rewards good iron play and the greens are fantastic, so you can make some putts.”