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Technically, this isn’t really Rory McIlroy’s backyard, Aberdeen is a
good 275 miles including a ferry ride away from County Down, but the former No. 1 is certainly playing like he’s at home.
McIlroy fired a 7-under 64 to lead the field after 18 holes of the Scottish Open at the Royal Aberdeen, the big tune-up before next week’s British Open.McIlroy fired seven birdies and hit just one bogey, with the birdies all coming in a span between No. 5 and No. 14.
He leads Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez and Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg by a single stroke, and another nine players are within four strokes of the lead.
For Gonzalez and Broberg, a top three finish would be just as good as the title. Both players have yet to qualify for the Open, but a top three here finish would guarantee that.
In addition, Broberg currently ranks 61st in the Race to Dubai standings – the top 60 players make the final tournament of the year.
Gonzalez looked like he would be the leader in the clubhouse with his
play on the first 12 holes.
He was 3-under at the turn, and started the back nine off with two birdies and an eagle to drop to 7-under before bogeying 13 and 16.McIlroy’s fellow native of Northern Ireland, Michael Hoey, is alone in fourth place at 5-under.
Four players are tied at 4-under, including England’s Luke Donald, and another four are tied for ninth at 3-under, notably American Phil Mickelson, the defending champion here and at the Open.
Mickelson was at even par until an eagle 3 on the 428-yard No. 6. He added back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 but bogeyed No. 18 to fall back a stroke.
Included in an 11-man glut at 2-under is 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose and recently-turned-pro Brit Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick has Top 30 finishes at his first two tournaments and at 166th in the Race to Dubai standings, could conceivably crack that field if he continues to play beyond his years.
Race to Dubai leader Thomas Bjorn is tied for 24th at 1-under, while Jamie Donaldson and Miguel Angel Jimenez got off to ugly starts with
matching 3-over 74s.
Jimenez bogeyed the last three holes of his round,while Donaldson had a miserable stretch of bogey, double bogey, bogey
Apparently Zach Johnson is pretty intent on making up for last year’s playoff loss at the John Deere Classic.
Johnon followed up his opening-round 63 with a 4-under 67 to remain
tied for first place at 12-under through two rounds at the TPC Deere Run
in Silvis, Illinois.
Johnson shook off three bogeys with seven birdies, including four in a
five-hole stretch on the back nine to forge a tie with William McGirt,
who shot a 5-under 66 that started with four straight birdies.
The pair are one stroke ahead of the trio of Steven Bowditch, Johnson
Wagner and Brian Harman.
Wagner tied for the best round of the day with
a 6-under 65 – comprised of an eagle 3 on No. 2 and four birdies in his
final seven holes.
Three-time tournament Steve Stricker also shot a 65 on Friday,
helping him to four-way tie for sixth at 9-under.
Stricker, who began
the day tied for 24th, racked up five birdies in his first eight holes.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth fired his way back into contention
with a 7-under 64, tying him for 16th with the only man who enjoyed a
better round on Friday, South Africa’s Tim Clark.
Clark recorded an 8-under 63, birdying the first five holes in
succession, then three more on the back nine to rise from 101st to 16th.
Spieth’s 64 saw him hit birdies back-to-back three different times.
With conditions pristine, the cut was set at 2-under, sending home
the likes of John Huh, Chris Kirk, Billy Hurley III and D.A. Points.
Here comes Steve Stricker again.
The three-time John Deere Classic winner fired a 7-under 65 to get to 16-under for the tournament.
He’s one stroke behind the equaly-sizzling Brian Harman who shot a 65 to get to 17-under.
The hottest golfer on the course Saturday was Scott Brown, who fired a
Harman had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch to reach
15-under, he’ll join Harman and Stricker in the final pairing of the
day, due to tee off at 1:36 p.m. local time on Sunday.
Harman had two eagles in his round, one early on No. 2 and the other late on No. 17 that counteracted a bogey on 18.
Stricker had four birdies on the front nine and four more on the back nine wrapped around a single bogey.
It’s still anyone’s tournament, with 10 other players within five strokes of Harman.
Six strokes back is defending champion Jordan Spieth, who fired a 4-under 67 to follow up his 64 on Friday.
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