1 July, 2016: Rory McIlroy stormed into a share of the second-round lead at the 100th Open de France with a brilliant five under par 66 at Le Golf National. Indian golfers SSP Chawrasia and Shiv Kapur finished well below the cut line, after posting 75s in the second round.
The Northern Irishman battled to a level par 71 in the first round and admitted his swing was a “work in progress” as he attempted to rectify the issues that saw him miss the cut at the US Open two weeks ago.
Barring a tee-shot into the water on the last, however, the World Number Four showed no signs of swing trouble on Friday as he catapulted himself into a share of the lead alongside Mikko Ilonen, Thongchai Jaidee, Brandon Stone and Jeunghun Wang.
That leading group has 28 European Tour wins between them but with an elite field gathered in Paris as the Open de France becomes the first National Open in continental Europe to celebrate its centenary, the chasing pack was also formidable.
Defending champion Bernd Wiesberger was at four under alongside Nicolas Colsaerts and Anders Hansen, with Joost Luiten, Francesco Molinari, Thomas Pieters and Andy Sullivan a further shot back.
The diversity of the European Tour was on full display with eight different nations represented in the top eight spots on the leaderboard and there were 32 players within five shots of top spot.
Finn Ilonen and Thailand’s Jaidee had set the clubhouse target at five under with rounds of 68 and 70 respectively and remained at the top of the leaderbard for most of the afternoon until McIlroy eventually got past them.
The four-time Major Championship winner was giving himself looks at birdie on almost every hole with pin-point accuracy with his irons and gains on the third, sixth, seventh, ninth, 13th and 14th had him out in front on his own.
He surrendered his only bogey after finding the water on the last for the second consecutive day and Stone and Wang soon made it a five-way tie at the top.
BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni champion Stone was level par for his round after a birdie and a bogey but further gains from the South African on the sixth, seventh and ninth got him to five under.
Wang – a two-time winner already this season – was not to be outdone, however, and the South Korean, who had birdies on the first, third, tenth, 12th and 14th with a bogey on the ninth, made a gain on the last to also hit the summit.
Earlier, Jaidee had three bogeys and three birdies in his round as he stood on the ninth tee but he took advantage of the par five to set the target where he was soon joined by Ilonen.
The Finn turned in 34 with three bogeys and a single bogey and when he birdied the tenth, he was right in the mix. The 37 year old then bogeyed the 13th but picked the shot back up two holes later.
Austrian Wiesberger had threatened to run away from the field as he got to nine under with five birdies in his first eight holes but his momentum was ended by a triple-bogey on the 18th and a bogey-bogey finish.
Hansen retried after the Portugal Masters last season but is aiming to play his five events to keep his card via the career money list and the Dane posted a bogey-free 68 with birdies on the 11th, 13th and 14th.
Belgian Colsaerts was also bogey-free in his 68 with gains on the 15th, fifth and ninth.
Dutchman Luiten and England’s Sullivan both signed for rounds of 70 with Italian Molinari carding a 71 and Belgian Pieters taking one more blow.