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McIlroy closes in on leader Scott

ESPN staff
November 29, 2013 « Wenger lauds 'exceptional' Giggs | Chartbeat test »
McIlroy was all smiles after a second-round 65 © Getty Images
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Rory McIlroy looked back to his scintillating best at the Australian Open as the Northern Irishman took advantage of calm conditions to card a 7-under 65 and slash Adam Scott's lead to two shots.

McIlroy has endured a difficult season, which has so far returned no victories, while off-field problems including conflicts with management and former sponsors - as well as persistent rumours surrounding his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki - continue to distract the two-time major champion.

But Scott will be looking precariously over his shoulder over the weekend, after McIlroy's nine birdies and two bogeys put him well in contention at 10-under par, just two behind the Australian.

Scott had opened his bid to become just the second player to win the Australian Triple Crown in perfect fashion with a course-record 62, but a mixed second round which included seven birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey left the Masters champion signing for a 70.

"It was always going to be a day where you just had to hang on," Scott said. "[McIlroy] is one of the best players in the world so I'm going to have to bring my best game."

McIlroy added: "The weather wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be and the wind didn't pick up, so I knew we could take advantage of that, and the greens were a little bit softer as well."

Richard Green heads into the weekend in third place at 8-under after a second-round 66 which included a hole-in-one at the par-3 sixth. Compatriot Matt Jones is a shot further back.

Scott has already won the Australian PGA and Masters in the past month, with Robert Allenby in 2005 the only other player to have won all three of Australia's major tournaments in a single season.

Defending champion Peter Senior carded an 81 and did not make the cut, while American Kevin Streelman, playing with Scott and World Cup winner Jason Day, retired after just four holes due to an eye infection.

"It's pretty rough right now but we'll see what we can do," Streelman said. "The doctor said it was pretty badly infected. I've been trying to do some drops but I started getting dizzy and it's the first time I've ever withdrawn at a tournament. I'm really sad to do it."

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