McIreland hold off charging Swedes
Ireland hung on to their lead at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup on the second day – but Sweden are closing.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell maintained Ireland’s three-shot lead at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup after carding a battling four-under-par 68 in Friday’s foursomes.
The Ulstermen, who lit up the Olazabal lay-out in yesterday’s fourballs with a 58, looked on course for a commanding halfway lead after moving five shots clear of the field at the turn, having picked up two birdies and an eagle in the testing, second-round, alternate shot format.
But the duo failed to add to their total on the way home with a late brace of birdies needed to wipe out an ugly double-bogey to progress to 18-under-par overall and maintain their strong position.
Defending champions Sweden, meanwhile, charged ominously into contention.
Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson combined to shoot the only bogey-free round as a seven-under-par 65 moved last year’s winners into second place following late back-to-back birdies.
“We started out the day with a three-shot lead and we still have a three-shot lead, it was a good day,” said world number 10 McIlroy.
“This format is a lot trickier than the fourball. You can’t be as aggresive as in the fourball rounds. You have to play more conservative golf in foursomes so as not to get your partner in trouble.
After setting the course alight yesterday with a flawless first round 14-under-par, Ireland were steaming towards a substantial lead with McIlroy’s tap in eagle at the seventh the highlight of a solid front nine.
But the back nine was much more of a battle as a first bogey of the week arrived at 11 following McIlroy’s wayward tee shot.
The loss was quickly regained two holes later, but after McDowell hit his approach at the tricky 15th into the water, McIlroy went on to miss a two-foot uphill putt as Ireland shipped a double bogey.
And this just as Sweden and Italy reeled off a glut of birdies to charge up the leaderboard and slash Ireland’s earlier advantage.
But just as Sweden capped off their impressive error-free round, McDowell rolled home at 16 footer to stretch the lead to two before holing from 20 feet a hole later.
“I think we would have taken 68 on the first tee,” added McIlroy. “We had a goal which was to get a bit lower than that, but we played pretty solid and apart from the couple of mistakes on the back nine, and could have got a better score.
“I think we really showed good character to come back with the two birdies on 16 and 17 after the double bogey, it was a good days work.”
Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari sit third a further shot off the pace after a 66 with Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita and Ryuji Imada (71) fourth at 11 under and Wales (68) and Venezuela (67) a further shot adrift.
“We played well yesterday but didn’t really put the score together, but I definitely felt like we played a lot better yesterday than we did last year,” said Karlsson.
“So at the end of the day it was a little bit frustrating with a 64, but I knew that the game was there to put a good score together today, and we did, so that’s very, very encouraging.”
England’s Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher sit tied for ninth alongside South Africa, India and New Zealand after a 70 but are nine shots off the pace with Martin Kaymer’s Germany (71) a further two back and a Sergio Garcia led Spain (71) languishing at four under par ahead of only Scotland, Brazil and Pakistan.
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