Leishman three clear after 64 as McIlroy treads water

Rory McIlroy endured another frustrating day on the course after a 69 for 141, one-under

 Marc Leishman hits his approach shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

Marc Leishman hits his approach shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

Marc Leishman pitched in for a birdie from 50 yards on his way to another scorching round and a three-stroke halfway lead over Jason Day and Rickie Fowler at the BMW Championship outside Chicago on Friday.

Driving the ball with laser-like accuracy, Leishman followed his opening 62 with a similarly impressive seven-under-par 64 at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Illinois.

His 16-under 126 total is only three shots shy of the PGA Tour record low score for the first 36 holes, set by Justin Thomas at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January.

Fellow Australian Day had a “lucky” hole-in-one en route to a 65, while American Fowler carded 64 to share second place at 13-under.

Leishman is six strokes clear of fourth-placed Patrick Cantlay in the penultimate event of the PGA Tour season.

Leishman said his goal had been to “try to do the same as yesterday, give myself heaps of opportunities and then try to take advantage of them.”

He did that and then some, his confidence boosted by his birdie at the par-four seventh, where he struck a low fizzing pitch that scuttled into the hole.

“It had a bit of speed and then in she goes. You go from scrambling for a par to making three [birdies] in a row,” said the laid-back Leishman.

The world number 22 has won twice on the PGA Tour, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida in March.

Leishman cannot, however, boast the best halfway score ever at Conway Farms, an honour that belongs to Day, who plundered the layout two years ago on his way to a victory that vaulted him to number one in the world.

Day’s seven-iron at the 188-yard 17th on Friday landed in the rough just in front of the green, took a couple of bounces and trickled into the hole, much to his surprise.

“We were trying to land it 182 [yards] and I kind of pushed it. It was a lucky hole-in-one, I guess,” Day said after his second ace on tour.

He also had an eagle, a chip-in from 30 feet from beyond the green at the par-five 14th.

“[I am] very pleased with how the last two days went,” Day said. “I can’t get too far ahead of myself. Last time I was here I was five shots better [after 36 holes]. I’ve got to somehow try to catch up to my number. That’s the main goal.”

Fowler also finished with a rush, picking up five strokes in the final six holes.

The BMW Championship is the third of four playoff events on the PGA Tour. The top points earner after next week’s Tour Championship will receive a $10 million bonus awarded to the season-long FedExCup champion.

Points leader Spieth shot 70 to trail by nine. Second-placed Thomas also carded 70 to fall 11 strokes behind.

Rory McIlroy endured another frustrating day on the course after a 69 for 141, one-under, left him with a mountain to climb in his bid to earn a place in next week’s season-ending Tour Championship.

McIlroy, who went into the BMW ranked 51st in the FedEx Cup standings and needing to break into the top-30 to make it to East Lake, acknowledged: “I need to hurry up and do something over the weekend if I am to make it to Atlanta, I mean it is very scoreable out there, there’s guys making a lot of birdies and I haven’t been able to put it all together over the first two days.”

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman captured the FedEx Cup title last year – and its $10 million bonus jackpot – but is currently projected to finish 60th unless he makes a big move over the final two round, estimating he needed “a couple of 65s” to make any impact.

“I would love to sign off on a good note, it would be nice to have something positive to go into the off season with but I am excited to get ready for next year. Half my mind is what I’m doing right now, half is planning what I am doing over the next three months to come out and be a better golfer than I have been this year,” said McIlroy, adding: “The frustrating thing is I know it is in there somewhere. It isn’t quite coming to together, it’s about being patient.”

McIlroy was put on the back foot in his second round when he suffered a double-bogey five on the par-three sixth hole. Although he managed five birdies – on the seventh, eighth, 12th, 14th and 15th, where he drove the green on the 334 yards par four that features water all the way down the left – and a bogey on the 13th, he failed to make any real inroads.

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