McIlroy leads in Memphis


Golf:Rory McIlroy continued to put his recent woes behind him by taking the 36-hole lead at the St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind in Memphis after following up a first round, two under 68 with a superb 65.

McIlroy, who will defend his US Open title in San Francisco next week, came into the event on the back of three straight missed cuts but played beautifully at times in the company of fellow Irishmen Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell. The 23 year old Northern Irishman leads a chasing pack of three, Americans JB Holmes, Jeff Maggert and Kevin Stadler locked together on six under, by one shot behind,.

McIlroy picked up a birdie on the second hole before carding an eagle three on the third. Six straight pars followed to complete an outward half of 32 and keep the world number two right in contention. His form was a mixed bag after the turn, with another birdie at 11 before back-to-back bogies at the next two holes.

But while that setback could have derailed him, McIlroy responded in perfect fashion, picking up shots in three of the last four holes to end on a high. He admitted: “I hit a lot of good iron shots. I feel like my ball striking is coming back to me.

“I saw some positive signs out there, so I’m just happy with how I played. I held two good putts on 17 and 18, which was nice. I’m happy with how I’m playing and with how I’m controlling the golf ball.”

Holmes’ 64 was the round of the day. He shot up 26 places in the standings as he followed a middling 70 on day one with an at-times inspired effort.

The front nine were particularly productive, with six birdies including a hot streak between holes five and nine. He was par for the back nine, with a birdie and a bogey cancelling each other out. Previous leader Maggert enjoyed a reasonably sedate day, signing for a 68 after three birdies and a bogey.

Harrington was the next best European in the field, ending in a four-way tie for eighth after shooting 68 for the second day in a row to close three off the lead. McDowell missed the cut following a five over 75.