• The Tour Championship, Round Two

McIlroy eagle secures FedEx pole

ESPN staff
September 21, 2012 « Lewis whitewashed by White | Chartbeat test »
Rory McIlroy had to negotiate his way out of some tough spots © Getty Images
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Rory McIlroy found what might prove to be a pivotal eagle at the 15th hole on Friday to boost his chances of becoming the youngest winner of the FedEx Cup, on a day when FedEx rival Tiger Woods struggled while Jim Furyk stormed into contention at The Tour Championship.

McIlroy, at the age of 23, is attempting to end his best season to date with a $10 million bonus by claiming the FedEx Cup at East Lake Golf Club. The lucrative award is handed out at the end of the four-tournament play-off, which reaches a climax on Sunday.

It appeared the cheque was beginning to slip from McIlroy's grasp as he limped to level-par for the day through 14, but a 25-foot eagle putt at 15 saw him to an overall score of three-under, retaining pole position in the projected FedEx standings. An erratic Woods ended the day on one-under at the halfway stage to cede his advantage to the world No. 1, while tournament leader Furyk set the pace on seven-under and is now second in the chase for the FedEx Cup.

McIlroy was out early on Friday, notching a series of pars until he finally capitalised with his first birdie at the sixth. The Northern Irishman had problems from the tee though, hitting less than 50 per cent of fairways, and a bogey at 14 after a brush with the trees came as little surprise as he dropped back to one-under. Then came his magnificent eagle putt to change the complexion of McIlroy's round, and a safe par at 18 completed a round of 68.

"A course like this will give you a bunched leaderboard," McIlroy said on Sky Sports. "Firm greens and penal rough, I'm happy with the position I'm in going into the weekend."

Like McIlroy, Woods failed to make early inroads during the second round, bogeying the first hole of the day as he advanced to level-par through six. A birdie at seven threatened the start of better things for Woods, but a shocking tee shot at eight led to a double-bogey as he slipped to three-under.

The former world No. 1 had an immediate chance to make amends when he gave himself a 15-foot chance for eagle at the ninth, eventually settling for birdie to move back to four-under. At that stage the projected standings showed that Woods and McIlroy were on course to share the FedEx trophy, but four more bogeys for the gain of a solitary birdie saw the American fall six shots behind tournament leader Furyk.

Furyk exploded off the opening tee en route to a round of 64, moving him second in the projected FedEx standings. The veteran tore into the par-fours at East Lake - birdying the first five encountered - and he also conquered the par-five ninth to reach the turn in 29 strokes.

Furyk, who will form part of USA's Ryder Cup team, produced a memorable display of iron work, finding another birdie at the 10th to move to seven-under. However, his form dipped on the way home, missing a birdie putt at 11 before another errant putt for par brought him his first bogey. Another was to follow and, despite one or two further pieces of brilliance, he eventually closed on a bogey to settle on seven-under.

Furyk's score, in the context of The Tour Championship, sees him lead Justin Rose by a solitary stroke, with Bo van Pelt and Bubba Watson a further shot behind. Rose remains a serious challenger after he carded a 68, birdying the last to move seventh in the FedEx projections.

Luke Donald made some improvement after his opening 71, carding a 69 on day two to move to even-par. There was nothing positive for Lee Westwood, however, who signed for a 73 to slip to five-over - causing concern for European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal a week out from the tournament.

Elsewhere, Phil Mickelson finds himself level with Donald, Sergio Garcia is on two-over, Keegan Bradley placed a shot further back while Nick Watney props up the rest of the field on nine-over.

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