ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy sunk his first professional hole-in-one in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship second round on Friday as the four-times major winner mounted another late surge to close within two strokes of leader Martyn Kaymer.
The German, teeing off early, shot a flawless 67 for an aggregate 13-under score of 131, piling the pressure on McIlroy who arrived on the first tee under a blistering midday sun.
The Northern Irishman, starting on five under, seemed unperturbed, making birdies on the first two holes, but the 25-year-old bogeyed the sixth to slip seven strokes behind Kaymer.
McIlroy sunk further birdies at 10 and 11 before missing simple putts to pick up further shots on the next two holes.
The world number one’s luck was to turn on the par-three 15th, however, as he lofted a nine-iron tee shot 177 yards into the hole.
“It definitely made up for the two previous holes,” McIlroy told reporters. “It was straight downwind. The 12th hole was playing sort of similar, I hit a nine iron there and pitched 194 so I knew it was a pretty good number.
”I had been playing well, but had not been putting so good, so that took the putter out of it.”
McIlroy fluffed a 12-foot birdie chance on 16 by inches, holding his face in frustration.
He found sand on his final two tee shots, but recovered to sink a 15-foot birdie on the last green, knocking fists with long-time caddie JP Fitzgerald in celebration, his 66 giving him an aggregate score of 133.
The late surge was similar to his first-round 67 when he made five birdies in the final seven holes.
“I went to the range yesterday and worked on a couple of things and I drove the ball much better today, which you need to around here,” McIlroy said.
“I played really well from tee to green. I was hitting some good putts that just weren’t dropping.”
He is two shots adrift of Kaymer, a three-times Abu Dhabi winner, and one shy of Belgian Thomas Pieters.
“Martin has got a phenomenal record around here and I couldn’t think of a better way to start the season than to test yourself against one of the best players in the world,” added McIlroy.
World number two Henrik Stenson suffered the ignominy of missing the cut, a second-round 68 lifting him to par for the tournament following a disastrous first day.
“There was a lot that needed to work out there today to try and make it,” Stenson told reporters. “I hit the ball much better, made a couple of putts, my short game was a little sharper than yesterday.”
Editing by Ed Osmond