Strong finish puts McIlroy in charge


US TOUR ST JUDE CLASSIC:FIRED BY a strong finish to his second round, Rory McIlroy took the lead at the halfway point of the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis last night. Three birdies on the last four holes saw him take a five-under par round of 65, and a one-shot lead over the American trio of JB Holmes, Jeff Maggert and Kevin Stadler.

A week ahead of the defence of his US Open title in San Francisco, the 23-year-old made a birdie at the par-four second before sending a 350-yard drive down the par-five third and claiming an eagle when finding the cup from 10 feet after a fine approach shot.

That moved him to five under for the tournament after his opening two-under 68, before he settled into a steady run of pars to make it to the turn in 32 shots.

Another par would come at the 10th before an exquisite wedge to five feet on the island green at the 157-yard par-three 11th brought him another birdie and a share of the lead on six under, a mark set by Holmes after he carded a 64 earlier in the day.

A poor approach shot on the 12th saw McIlroy find a tough greenside bunker and he would end up dropping a shot when failing to get up and down.

Another poor approach to the 13th saw him miss the green to the right before he two-putted from close range for another bogey as he moved back to four under. But he birdied the par four 15th to kick start that impressive finish.

That left him three shots ahead of playing partner Pádraig Harrington after the Dubliner shot his second successive 68 to move to four under for the tournament.

Graeme McDowell completed an all-Irish three-ball, but the Rathmore golfer always faced an uphill battle to make the cut after opening with a five-over 75.

Two bogeys and two birdies over the first six holes were followed by seven straight pars but bogeys on 14, 15 and 17 saw him finish the day three over, eight over par in total and certain to miss the cut.

Holmes tore up the front nine at the TPC Southwind course en route to a 64, including four straight birdies from the sixth.