Smiling killer: Rory McIlroy threatens Shanghai

SHANGHAI: world number two Rory McIlroy all smiles after crowning a roller coaster with an eagle on Friday to move within a stroke of the middle of the road in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Friday.

After his strongest season in years, McIlroy matched his first round of five under par 67 to reach -10 at the East Asian premiere Golf event, where he hopes to gain ground on the world's top-ranked Golf er, Brooks Koepka.

The Northern Irishman begins the weekend a blow behind the leader Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who jumped to the head with a late blow of sweet goal at the Sheshan International Golf Club.

McIlroy started hot, with four birdies in a row in the first nine, but then struggled to keep things steady through several tense holes in the middle of his round.

Even so, he was looking for the advantage in the section before throwing his exit blow in par 4 16 badly, losing it in the forest. He ended up shooting.

But two holes later, McIlroy made a perfect tour of the 18th hole street of par five, followed by a 218-yard iron that was placed a couple of feet from the pin.

A smiling McIlroy headed towards the green to look for the eagle.

Delighted with the first two rounds, McIlroy said.

Getting into conflict before the weekend is something I wanted to do. It's something that I haven't done much in recent weeks.

Obviously it was nice to finish as I did, especially after the disaster I almost did at 16.

McIlroy's consistently strong game saw him take home the 2019 FedEx Cup and the PGA Tour Player of the Year award, success that he says has motivated him to recapture Golf 's top ranking after a four-year wait.

Although he has not yet won the winner's reward of $ 1.7 million from the event, McIlroy now has the best score in relation to the pair of any player in the tournament since 2009, with 81 under par.

Defending champion Xander Schauffele continued to fight the flu to keep alive the hope of becoming the first consecutive winner of the event.

The American was in a triple tie for the third with Im Sung-jae of South Korea and the Australian Adam Scott with -9.

The tournament has 15 previous top winners, including Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth.

Koepka and a resurgent Tiger Woods, who won a record 82 PGA Tour victory on Monday in Japan, are absent.

Overnight leader Li Haotong of China, who had stoked the hopes of the crowd to win in his country with an impressive opening round 64, returned to Earth on Friday.

He shot a par 72 pair to stay in the eighth below the tournament, three shots behind the Fitzpatrick leader.