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Rory McIlroy two ahead at halfway

Golf’s young guns came out blazing at the Masters with 21-year-old Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holding a two-shot lead over 23-year-old Australian Jason Day at the halfway mark on Friday.

Overnight leader McIlroy posted 69 for a 10-under-par of 134, while Day, playing alongside the Briton, streaked into contention with a spectacular 64 that was one off the championship record.

Four-times Masters winner Tiger Woods made big noise as well with seven birdies from the eighth hole onward for a 66 that lifted him into a tie with South Korean K.J. Choi at seven-under-par 137.

Woods, who looked in danger of missing the cut after three bogeys in the first seven holes, capped off his roaring charge with a 10-foot birdie at the last.

“I’m three back, so I played myself back in the championship,” said Woods, who has gone nearly 17 months without a win and has been struggling to master a new swing. “We have still got 36 more holes. We have a long way to go.”

Choi, who had taken over the tournament lead at eight under par before late starter McIlroy teed off, shot 70 after dropping a stroke by three-putting the 18th for bogey.

McIlroy, who seized the British Open lead last year at St. Andrews with a 63 before soaring to a second-round 80, played strong and steady this time as he posted four birdies against a lone bogey on a hot, humid day that led to more low scoring.

“I’m feeling very comfortable on this golf course,” said McIlroy, who finished third in three of his last five major championships. “I’m two ahead at a major championship. You can’t be disappointed with that.”

The third youngster in the precocious group, Rickie Fowler, was no slouch either. The colorfully attired 22-year-old American shot 69 for 139, five shots off the pace.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Day, playing in only his third major. “I said to the boys this morning, Rory and Rickie, when we were walking up the first hole, ‘you know what, I’m going to have to start paying people to yell my name out because everyone is yelling their name out.

“It got a bit better on the back nine which was nice.”

Day made five birdies on the inward nine.

“The atmosphere was great and all three of us played wonderful.”

Said McIlroy: “It was great. I think collectively for the last two days we were 23 under par. We played some really good golf out there, and we fed off one another.”

On 138, four off the pace, were Australian Geoff Ogilvy and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, who had shared the first-round lead.

Ogilvy posted 69 despite four-putting for double-bogey at the par-five second. The long-hitting Quiros, who fell victim to the shortest hole on the course when he double-bogeyed the par-three 12th, birdied the last to salvage a 73.

Before Woods’s charge, Fred Couples and Ricky Barnes were the only Americans on a distinctly international leaderboard.

Couples, the 1992 champion and crowd favorite in Augusta, shot 68 for 139, a total he shared with Barnes, who reached seven under par by the sixth hole before stumbling to a 71.

Also at five under par were world number two Lee Westwood of Britain, who registered a 67, and South Korean Yang Yong-eon, who had reached eight under par by the eighth hole before slipping back with three bogeys.

Champion Phil Mickelson tread water with an even-par 72 for a two-under total of 142, eight strokes behind McIlroy.

“I left too many shots out there,” he said. “But that’s all in the past. We’ve got the weekend to look forward to.”

Forty-nine players made the cut, set at one-over-par 145.

Among notables missing out on weekend play were world number one and PGA champion Martin Kaymer of Germany, who shot 72 for 150, twice former U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen of South Africa, 78 for 148, and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, who posted 74 for 149.

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell took a triple bogey-six at the par-three 12th when he couldn’t find his ball in a bush alongside the green and it cost him. He carded a 73 to miss the cut by two strokes.



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