TURKISH AIRLINES OPEN: No stress for Rory McIlroy has he enjoys upward momentum

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Two late bogeys from Jaco van Zyl threw the Turkish Airlines Open wide open, with a “stress-free” world number three Rory McIlroy just four shots off the lead in the first Final Series event in Antalya.

Van Zyl enjoyed a three-shot overnight lead after a brilliant opening 61 at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal and was seven clear after five birdies in his first 10 holes on Friday.

However, the 36-year-old then found water off the tee on the fourth and eighth to drop his only shots of the week so far and eventually signed for a 69 to finish 14 under par, two shots ahead of English pair Richard Bland and Chris Wood.

Seeking his first European Tour title in his 370th event, Bland needed just 28 shots to complete his last nine holes in a superb 65, while Wood continued to impress playing partner Darren Clarke, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, with a second consecutive 66.

France’s Victor Dubuisson, whose only victory to date came in the inaugural staging of this event in 2013, was a shot further back after a flawless 64 alongside Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, with McIlroy and Alexander Levy on 10 under.

McIlroy had needed a left-handed recovery shot on the 18th on Thursday and saved par on the same hole on Friday, despite a penalty drop after driving into a bush, the 26-year-old recording a second consecutive 67.

“They’re as stress-free two 67s as I have shot all year,” said McIlroy, who has yet to drop a shot and enjoyed a tremendous stroke of luck on the fourth when his pulled drive was heading for the water until hitting a tree on the edge of the hazard.

“I definitely feel like there’s a lot more to come. I made a couple of good putts to save pars over the past couple of days, but for the most part I’m giving myself chances on most greens. I feel like I can hit the ball a little better. I can definitely get my wedges closer.

“I don’t feel like I need to put myself under any pressure to get off to a good start tomorrow. Just play another solid round of golf and I’ll hopefully be in there with a shout going into Sunday.

“If I get myself up there, I feel like I’ve had a lot more experience than some of the guys up there on the leaderboard closing tournaments out, so I’d back myself. I looked at the leaderboard on the fourth green and at that point I think I was 10 behind. So to be only four behind going into the weekend isn’t much at all.”