SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES: Rory McIlroy fired a brilliant five-under-par 66 to surge into a five-way share of the lead after the second round of the 100th French Open at Golf National on Friday (Jul 1).
|Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy reacts on the 16th green during the second round of the 100th French Golf Open on Jul 1, 2016 at Le Golf National in Guyancourt, near Paris. (Photo: AFP/Dominique Faget)
The Northern Irishman is tied with Mikko Ilonen, Brandon Stone, Thongchai Jaidee and Jeunghun Wang on five under par at the halfway stage.
Masters champion Danny Willett missed the cut for the second week in a row on five over.
McIlroy, the world number four, struggled with swing trouble in his opening 71, but he had no such problems on Friday. He dropped his only shot of the day on the 18th hole when he hit his tee shot into the water and took a bogey five.
But after six earlier birdies it was still a fantastic round for the four-time major champion. "I played very well, I didn't really put a foot wrong until the 18th," he said.
"I putted really well today, even the ones that didn't go in, looked like they would go in. But 66 on that golf course in those conditions ... I'll take that any day."
South Korean Wang, who had back-to-back victories earlier in the season, matched McIlroy for the best round of the day.
Wang, ranked 74 in the world, poured in four birdies on the back nine, including one on the perilous last hole that tripped up McIlroy.
South Africa's Stone had three birdies in his final four holes to charge through the field with a three-under-par 68.
Thailand's Thongchai backed up his opening 67 with a solid 70 on the second morning.
A fine iron shot into the ninth green, his last hole, set up a simple birdie to reach five under par for the tournament.
"The course set-up is very tough this year. The greens are soft, which is OK, but the wind conditions are difficult," the 46-year-old said. "That's why we're very happy to be one under par today. I hit my irons very well, but I missed a lot of greens. I had a chip-in on 18 which helped bring the confidence back."
The world number 262 Ilonen, who was ranked in the top 50 less than two years ago but has struggled with injury and loss of form, looked back to his best in France.
The Finn had five birdies in his round, with an excellent par save at 17 helping him stay on five under.
"That's got to be the best two scores on this golf course ever for me. I don't think I've had too many rounds in the 60s," he said. "Last week I played really well and just had one really bad round in there. That was showing more signs that my game is there or thereabouts."
Earlier on Friday, defending champion Bernd Wiesberger, starting on the back nine, had soared into a four-shot lead with five birdies in his first eight holes, only for a triple bogey at the 18th to halt his momentum.
Two closing bogeys left the Austrian one shot adrift of the leading quintet.
England's world number nine Willett struggled to find any consistency with his swing and missed a succession of birdie efforts on the greens.
A second round score of 72 left him two strokes below the cut line.
Lee Westwood, playing with compatriot Willett, fought back from a difficult start with three consecutive birdies from the second hole en route to a second-round 70 that put him on two over par.