‘Flat’ McIlroy falls back as Kisner streaks ahead

Saturday, 7 November 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

fe1bc90b5cRory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off during the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai on 6 November, 2015 – AFP

AFP: Rory McIlroy struggled to a level-par 72 Friday in the second round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai to fall 10 shots behind leader Kevin Kisner.

The world number three wasn’t the only superstar to find scoring difficult as the wind got up at the 7,200-yard par-72 Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.

McIlroy’s playing partners and fellow top-10 ranked players Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler carded 72 and 71 respectively.

“I didn’t play very well today,” said the Northern Irishman. “I was just a bit flat out there. So, yeah, left myself a lot to do over the weekend but hopefully I can shoot a couple of good scores.”

The scoreboard had been dominated by rounds in the 60s on Thursday but only 16 of the elite 78-man field managed to crack 70 on the second day.

“I’ve shot 63 around here before,” said McIlroy, who admitted he still was not 100 percent after a bout of food poisoning earlier in the week. 

“No reason why I can’t go out and shoot a score like that over the weekend and get myself somewhat back in the tournament.”

World number two and double major winner Jordan Spieth showed he was human in a year when he almost conquered all with three consecutive bogeys from the 11th. 

It was his second worst scoring run of 2015 after going bogey-bogey-double bogey on his first three holes in the PGA Tour’s Barclays Championship way back in August. 

“I hit some shots that I was very shocked with today,” said Spieth. “I felt like I was very lazy in my routine and it bit me with three unforced errors in a row on the back nine there.”

A birdie four at the 18th gave some cheer to the 22-year-old who finished with a level-par 72 to stay at four-under for the tournament and in a 10-man tie for 27th beside McIlroy. 

Defending champion and world number four Bubba Watson lost ground with a 73, bogeying the 18th after finding the greenside lake and is a shot further back at three-under.

‘Beyond expectations’

Kisner followed up his opening day 64 with a 66 to lie 14 under par, remarkable scoring for the 31-year-old American who didn’t practise at all before Thursday because of a bad back. It surprised even himself.

“It’s beyond my expectations,” Kisner said. “I had no expectations coming in. So it’s been good. I’m making a lot of putts and that’s fun.”

America-based Scotsman Russell Knox stands alone in second place on 12 under par after a best-of-the-day 65 in his first World Golf Championships event.

Overnight leader Branden Grace found it hard to follow his stunning opening 63, managing only a 71 to fall four shots behind Kisner at 10 under par.

“It was tough,” said the South African. “Most of these holes are tree-lined, so it’s tough to really trust the wind.”

Local hero Li Haotong continued to thrill his legions of Chinese fans with a three-under 69 and a share of fourth place at nine-under for the tournament level with American Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed.

“It’s a pretty good start on the first five holes to make three birdies,” said the 20-year-old Li, who got off to a flyer and at one stage on Friday was atop the leaderboard. 

“It was very cool, a lot of fun to see my name up there on the leaderboards around the course. I missed some chances, but last hole was a very important up-and-down for bogey.”