Rory McIlroy bested by Aberg but remains in contention at Heritage Classic

Séamus Power joins McIlroy four strokes adrift of the leaders with Shane Lowry four further back

Rory McIlroy didn’t quite manage to match playing partner Ludvig Aberg step-for-step in the second round of the $20 million RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, one of the signature events on the PGA Tour, but a bogey-free 68 for seven-under-par 135 put the Northern Irishman in contention heading into the weekend.

Although not firing on all cylinders, McIlroy’s scrambling proved razor-sharp as his short game enabled him to keep a clean scorecard where he joined Séamus Power on that same mark, four strokes adrift of a trio of clubhouse leaders in Tom Hoge, Sepp Straka and Collin Morikawa.

McIlroy was paired with his fellow European Ryder Cup star Aberg; and, although the Swede – who birdied his final two holes – outscored him 66 (for 132) to 68, there was more good than bad in the world number two’s round to provide positive vibes going into the business end of the tournament.

Birdies on the first (from six feet), 12th (from 12 feet) and 15 (from two feet, after reaching the green in two and missing with his 30 feet eagle effort) gave McIlroy forward momentum, where his short game – showcased by a lovely up-and-down on the 18th after missing the green left – proved the strong part of his game.


Aberg, runner-up to Scottie Scheffler on his Masters debut last week, maintained his strong form as he joined Patrick Rodgers on 132, one stroke behind the clubhouse leaders.

“I feel like it tested my patience a little bit more than it did yesterday. But we didn’t try to force anything. We stayed very disciplined, to our targets, and ended up finishing birdie-birdie, which was kind of a bonus on those two holes, but obviously I’m very pleased with the way we’ve been playing.

“All we’re trying to do on this golf course is [find] fairways and greens, it adds up. That’s what we’re trying to do, give ourselves plenty of looks all the time. If you happen to sneak one in closer, that’s great. Obviously did that the last couple of holes, and it makes me excited about the weekend,” said the 24-year-old Swedish player, in just his second season as a professional but already up to seven in the world rankings.

Power, who didn’t play at Augusta National, followed up his opening 65 with a 70 for 135, his second round featuring three birdies – on the fifth (from six feet), sixth (from 18 feet) and ninth (from 15 feet) – to go with two bogeys, on the 12th where he was bunkered with his approach and the 15th where he was in the right rough off the tee.

For Shane Lowry, there was a disappointing finishing bogey – after missing the green with his approach into the native area on the 18th – as he signed for a 72 for a midway total of level par 142. Lowry’s birdies came on the second and fifth holes but dropped shots at the fourth and eighth saw him turn in 36 and he reeled off eight straight pars on the homeward journey before bogeying the last.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times