Kolon Korea Open: McIlroy happy to be back in groove

Rory McIlroy stands with his caddy, JP Fitzgerald, at the 14th tee, the start of a run of bogeys. Picture: AP
Rory McIlroy stands with his caddy, JP Fitzgerald, at the 14th tee, the start of a run of bogeys. Picture: AP
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RORY McIlroy summed up his comeback performance as “pretty good so far” after the second round of the Kolon Korea Open finished with the Northern Irishman two shots off the lead.

The world No 6, who is playing his first tournament after a month-long break, is in a tie for fifth on three under par having shot a two-under 69 on day two at the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club course near Cheonan that could have been even better had he not bogeyed on the ninth, his last hole of the day.

McIlroy had a topsy-turvy opening nine, with two birdies and a bogey coming in his first four holes and he then dropped a shot on three holes in a row from 14 to 16. However, the former world No 1 bounced back to score five birdies in the next ten holes.

Offering his reflections, McIlroy said: “Pretty good so far. There was a few sloppy shots, or sloppily played holes.

“I made the bogeys on the back nine [his first nine] which wasn’t great but most of the other stuff was pretty solid. I hit some good shots and made some good birdies, so it was good.

“I’m driving the ball very well and, for the most part, my iron play is pretty good, but I definitely missed a few opportunities out there. I could have been a few shots better, but I’m in a good position going into the weekend and that’s all you can ask for.

“After that stretch [of bogeys] on the back nine I turned it around and played the last ten holes in four under, so it was a pretty good effort. I was a little disappointed to bogey the last, but it was good for the most part.” Asked about his strategy for day three, the 24-year-old added: “Just to keep playing the way I am, stay patient. I don’t need to go out there and be overly aggressive. I just want to get myself into a good position for Sunday.”

The four players ahead of McIlroy are all South Korean, with Hong Soon-sang carding a bogey-free three-under-par 68 to top the leaderboard.

He is on five under overall, one stroke ahead of compatriots Kang Sung-hoon, Kim Hyung-tae and Hwang In-choon, while tied fifth with McIlroy are two more home favourites – Yu Gyoung-yoon and first-round leader Jang Ik-jae.

In Australia, Sweden’s Peter Hedblom continued his bid to retain his European Tour card by moving into the outright lead on the second day of the ISPS HANDA Perth International at Lake Karrinyup, two shots ahead of England’s Ross Fisher.

With a top-110 place in the Race to Dubai standings required to secure playing privileges for next season, Hedblom, currently 179th, is looking to break into that bracket by the end of this tournament and he began the day as one of four players tied for the lead after shooting an opening four-under-par 68.

Prior to him teeing off on day two he was overtaken by Fisher, who shot 67 to progress to five under overall, but Hedblom moved to seven under by posting 69 in which he made birdies at the first and fourth en route to six in total for the round.

Asked about the prospect of a dream finish to a difficult year, 43-year-old Hedblom told the European Tour: “I love fairytales. A similar thing actually happened to my best friend on Tour, Michael Jonzon, in 2009.

“He was like me, way back and needed a big finish in Castellon which was his last tournament, and he won it – he beat Martin Kaymer. That was a fairytale story. That was the same year as my last win, so it has been a little while for me but I know I have the game to do it.

“It’s been two great days so far and it is great right now to be leading.”

Craig Lee is the leading Scot going into the third round, a round of 71 leaving him seven shots behind Hedblom on level par, with Chris Doak a shot behind after his 73.

Scott Henry and David Drysdale are both two over par after two rounds and made the cut at the Western Australian layout with nothing to spare.