Masters: Round two wrap-up report

Rory McIlroy shrugged away his second-round agony at St Andrews last year and leads by two at Augusta.

Rory McIlroy shrugged away the memory of his second-round agony at St Andrews last year and will take a two-shot lead into the weekend at the 75th Masters.

There was no St Andrew meltdown at the equally famous Augusta National on Friday; no awful 80 this time, as the 21-year-old Northern Ireland star added a solid 69 to his opening 65 to take his 36-hole halfway total to a 10-under that might well have left the field scrambling far behind, but for a magnificent Friday fight back by Australian Jason Day, one of McIlroy’s two 20-something playing partners.

Day started the second round at level par after posting a modest 72 on Thursday, but came storming back with an 8-under 64 to end a glorious day just two shots off the pace being set by McIlroy.

The third young lion in one of the most exciting groups at Augusta on Friday, America’s stylish young gun Ricky Fowler, didn’t fare quite as well, but at 5-under after a 69, he’s still in the hunt.

And so too, believe it or not, is a lurking Tiger Woods, who was looking dangerously like the fierce and relentless gladiator of old, having picked up five shots with some magnificent iron play to card a 6-under 66 and go to just three off the pace at 7-under in a third-place tie with Korea’s KJ Choi.

Yes, suddenly the man who had been written off by many after his very ordinary opening 1-under 71 was into a tie for 3rd place with KJ Choi with Australia’s former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy in 5th place tie with Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, who had been the joint overnight leader with McIlroy.

Choi posted a solid 70 as against Ogilvy’s 69 and the disappointing 73 of Spanish bomber Alvaro Quiros, the leader of the longest driver averages after round one.

England’s Luke Donald and Ross Fisher were at four under with defending champion Phil Mickelson on only two under after a frustrating 72.

McIlroy, third in the last two majors of last season, built on his opening 65 just as he had hoped he would and will be delighted that he is still out in front heading into the weekend of this the first major of the 2011 season.

Choi and fellow Korean YE Yang had overtaken him before he had teed off again and Quiros got to eight under as well before taking two in a bunker at the 12th and double-bogeying.

But McIlroy continued on his merry way with birdies at the second, fifth, ninth and par five 13th which could have brought him even more joy had he not missed a 10-footer for an eagle.

This especially so as he had picked up his first bogey of the tournament a hole earlier on the 155-yard par three 12th.

There were no more fireworks in his round as he wisely parred the remaining five holes, for that was clearly better than an implosion.

Donald, meanwhile, equalled the lowest round of his Masters career with a 68.

After recovering from three over par after 10 holes to open with a level par 72 Donald said: “I’m in a good position.

“I think I’ve played enough here to know you can get on some runs and fortunately that happened. I didn’t make a great start, but I certainly didn’t panic.”

As for McIlroy being in the lead Donald added: “It’s early days. The weekend’s only going to get tougher.”

Donald was playing with 51-year-old Fred Couples, who did even better than him on the first two days with a five under aggregate that put him in joint fifth spot with fellow Americans Fowler, Ricky Barnes, Yang, and Wofrld No 2 Lee Westwood who came in under the radar with a sparkling 67 to make up a lot of ground and get back into the race, just as Tiger was doing,

On the other hand, Phil Mickelson’s chances of a successful defence and a fourth green jacket in eight years were hit by three bogeys in four holes from the third.

In typical fashion the tournament favourite, a winner in Houston on Sunday, then birdied three of the next four, but he bogeyed the 11th after failing to find the green for the second day in a row and missed out on birdie chances at the 13th and 15th, Augusta’s two par fives on the inward half.

Mickelson said: “I left too many shots out there. I had six up and downs that were not hard and I didn’t make them.

“Fortunately I am not in that bad a position and I can get back in it, but I can’t afford this weekend to leave those shots out there.

“These next two days are my favourite two days of the year and you can make up a lot of ground.”

Paul Casey was two under after a 72 and Justin Rose (71) had a chance of making it through after playing the last six in four under. He eagled the 13th and birdied the 14th and 16th.

Ross Fisher added a 71 to his initial 69, while Scots Martin Laird was level par after 14 and US Open champion Graeme McDowell, partnering Woods again, stood one over.

Sandy Lyle’s 80 saw him crash out on nine over, while Ian Woosnam, who nearly pulled out before the start because of hip trouble, had 77 for 11 over.