In a promoter’s dream, golf superstars Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy will go head-to-head in the final pairing on moving day at the Australian Open.
Scott was unable to repeat his first-round heroics but a two-under-par 71 on Friday has the world No.2 leading by two from McIlroy, who roared into contention with a 10-birdie 65.
After starting the second round seven strokes adrift, McIlroy briefly seized the outright lead at 10-under when Scott took a horror double-bogey six on the fourth hole and then bogeyed the next.
But, showing his class, Australia’s Triple Crown hopeful bounced back with birdies on the seventh, eighth, 12th, 13th holes and 16th holes to wrestle back control.
Enjoying the best of the morning scoring conditions, McIlroy matched Scott’s 10 birdies from Thursday but also threw in three bogeys.
“It feels good,” said the one-time world No.1.
“I played well. I putted much better than I did yesterday, which was a big positive, and I’m in a great position going into the weekend.
“It would have been very easy for me to get frustrated yesterday and I was getting a little frustrated because I bogeyed 10 and 11 to go back to even par and I’m thinking to myself: ‘I’m 10 behind – not just 10 behind anyone – I’m 10 behind Scotty’.”
Veteran left-hander Richard Green is outright third at nine-under after vaulting into contention with a 66 punctuated by a spectacular hole-in-one on the 143-metre sixth.
“I haven’t hit shots like I have the last two days for a long time, probably about three years,” Green said.
“It’s building, confidence is building and fortunately that shot on the par-3 sixth today was just a flush golf shot.”
World Cup winner Jason Day (74) struggled and will start the weekend a dozen shots off the pace.
Exciting teenage amateur Ryan Ruffels fought back doggedly after a five-over 77 on debut on Thursday to make the halfway cut with a superb second-round five-under 67.
“I am really proud of myself,” the 15-year-old said.
“I was pretty nervous coming into today because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. It was pretty embarrassing yesterday.”
Defending champion Peter Senior, who signed off for a nightmare 81 on Friday, was among several former winners to miss the cut.
Greg Chalmers and Peter Fowler also failed to survive, while American drawcard Kevin Streelman was another casualty.
Playing in the marquee group with Scott and Day, Streelman quit after four holes on Friday and required treatment at St Vincent’s Hospital for a nasty eye infection.
South Australian left-hander Nic Cullen, who carded an opening-round 73, didn’t even make the first tee for the second round after spending Thursday night in hospital with appendicitis.