LONDON – Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy blazed a trail to the top of the BMW PGA Championship leaderboard with a scintillating seven-under 65 in his second round at Wentworth on Friday.
Starting the day a couple of shots behind leader Lucas Bjerregaard, McIlroy gave an iron-play masterclass and matched it with a fine putting display to card seven birdies as he moved to 12 under for the tournament.
He will go into the weekend three shots clear of 21-year-old Englishman Sam Horsfield and four ahead of another home player Tommy Fleetwood who almost matched McIlroy with a superb 66.
McIlroy, bidding to win the European Tour's flagship event for the second time after his 2014 triumph, was playing with Swede Alex Noren and England's Lee Westwood with the trio not dropping a shot between them on a becalmed West Course.
Defending champion Noren is on seven under with Ryder Cup vice captain Westwood at five under.
Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat played his way up the leaderboard but, like on Thursday, found water on the way to bogeying the 18th. He ended with a 69 to leave him tied with Noren, Francesco Molinari and England's Robert Rock who took the early clubhouse lead with an impressive round of 68.
Denmark's Bjerregaard failed to build on his opening-day 65, struggling to a one-over 73 after a double-bogey on the 18th.
It took a while for McIlroy to fire up his putter but when he did he looked every bit the four-times major winner he is.
He failed to make birdie on the opening three holes but did so on the fourth, seventh and ninth.
The 29-year-old added four more birdies on his inward nine and his round could have been even better but for two disappointing pars on the par-five 17th and 18th.
His 36-hole total of 132 was only one shot off the record for the tournament and he will take some stopping.
“It's easy to get yourself in trouble here so to keep it in play for 36 holes is nice,” McIlroy said.
“I hit it to six to eight feet on the first three holes but none of them dropped and I thought 'here we go' but I played great after that and I took my chances.”
Horsfield, who only turned professional last year, carded a 68 with a strong back nine.
“I think any time you're playing on the weekend and you're up there near Rory, I think you're going to be doing pretty well,” he said.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, named as a Ryder Cup vice-captain this year, put himself in contention with a five-under 67 to climb up to six under for the tournament going into the weekend when thunderstorms are expected.