SHANGHAI: World number one Rory McIlroy on Friday set himself up for a weekend assault on the $7 million BMW Masters at Lake Malaren after a second round scintillating 65 took him to 12-under par, two shots behind halfway leader Peter Hanson.
On a day of low scoring on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Shanghai, Sweden's Hanson was one of three players to shoot an eight-under par round of 64 following Shane Lowry of Ireland and fellow Swede Robert Karlsson earlier on Friday.
McIlroy had complained of headaches during his opening 67 on Thursday, which the Northern Irishman put down to pollution.
On Friday he had to battle the sound of fireworks, music and piledrivers around the course to get the job done.
"Fireworks? I thought they were gunshots going off there," he laughed.
"You're always going to have distractions out there, whether it is people with cameras or movement in the crowd.
"Once you're over your shot, you're sort of in your own little bubble and your zone and you don't really notice those sort of things."
One of the only semblances of trouble for the double major winner came on the final hole where McIlroy's tee shot found the right-hand rough.
But it was in area trampled by spectators that gave him a good enough lie to put his approach to 10 feet and safely two-putt for par.
"It was very good day," said McIlroy. "I played very well and gave myself plenty of opportunities. Overall it was just a very good round of golf and obviously (puts me) in a great position going into the weekend."
A 64 must have been the last thing on Hanson's mind when he opened his round Friday with a bogey on the first hole.
"It's amazing how many good rounds come after a bogey on the first," he said.
"I got it straight back with a birdie on three. I think that's pretty much the key to my two good rounds," added the Ryder Cup player who had carded a 66 on Thursday.
McIlroy, the US PGA champion, is looking for another big pay day to tighten his grip on the Race To Dubai as he seeks to emulate Luke Donald's feat of last year by winning the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.
He said one of the keys was trying to make it a habit of being top of the leaderboard.
"Well it looks like it's quite routine at the moment," McIlroy said. "The more you are in this position the more comfortable you become and, yeah, I like the fact that most weeks when I tee it up I can get myself into contention."
The course has already yielded three rounds of 64 and Jamie Donaldson's 62 on Thursday but McIlroy believes it would be hard for anyone to shoot any lower, and certainly not the magic number of 59, golf's Holy Grail, despite the birdie fest.
"I think the greens are quite difficult. So I can't see anyone getting to 13-under out there. I think 62 will be the lowest you're going to see this week," he said, then added: "But I would love to prove myself wrong."
Karlsson, who is third on nine-under par, went on a run of six birdies in a row from the sixth hole in his 64, just two birdies short of equalling the all-time record on Tour.
"Making six birdies in a row I was trying not to get too far ahead of myself," said the 43-year-old. "There's a lot of hard holes at the end. It was a personal record having six in a row at a tournament so that was good fun."
Lowry won his first professional title at the Portugal Masters a fortnight ago and the likeable 25-year-old seems to have carried the momentum all the way to China.
He finished Friday with a share of fourth place on eight-under par alongside overnight leader Donaldson, who shot 74, Justin Rose and Alex Noren who both carded four-under 68s. - AFP