McIlroy takes early clubhouse lead

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy is hoping to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan in wining all four majors

Rory McIlroy breathed fresh life into his Masters bid with a gutsy one-under-par 71 to take the early clubhouse lead on day two at Augusta National.

McIlroy, aiming to complete a clean sweep of golf’s four majors, sunk three birdies in the final six holes to finish three under at the midway point.

The Northern Irishman, 26, moved within two shots of overnight leader Jordan Spieth, who is still on the course.

At one stage before his late rally, McIlroy trailed Spieth by seven.

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McIlroy failed to capitalise on early birdies on the second and third, compounding a double bogey on the next with further dropped shots on the fifth and 11th.

But the world number three, who could become the sixth man to claim the career Grand Slam, reignited his challenge with a birdie on the par-five 13th.

Further birdies followed on 15 and 16 before he saved his par on the last with a six-foot putt after a wayward drive right into the trees

McIlroy showed his delight at holing a final putt, which kept him ahead of New Zeland’s Danny Lee and American Scott Piercy, with a celebratory fist-pump.

Two-time champion Bubba Watson and world number five Rickie Fowler look set to miss the cut – currently projected at five over – after ending their second rounds on six over and 10 over respectively.

Wales’ Ian Woosnam, playing on the 25th anniversary of his Masters victory, revealed after his second round this will be his final Augusta visit because of a persistent back injury.

“I am in pain all the way round so it’s time to say bye-bye really,” said the 58-year-old, who finished 19 over par.

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