Rory McIlroy on the charge at Genesis Open

Rory McIlroy on the charge at Genesis Open

Here in Tinseltown, they just adore a big-name cast and when the weather-affected Genesis Open at last reached the halfway stage on Saturday, the leaderboard was positively box office, with four former world No 1s in the top eight. And courtesy of a putting performance that was classic Jekyll and Hyde, Rory McIlroy was threatening to upstage them all.

The Irishman was the star of the morning, playing the six holes he had left in four under for a bogeyless eight-under 63, his lowest competitive score in five months. There was a 20-footer on the fourth (his 13th), a 35-footer on the fifth and after almost holing an approach from 160 yards on the seventh, he watched a 30-footer descend on the eighth. This was in direct and happy contrast to the first round.

In that 72, he took 35 putts. In the second round he took 28. “Yeah, I just saw my stats and you could they were a little better,” McIlroy said. “I hit more fairways, hit more greens, hit it closer to the hole and made more putts. So that all adds up to a better round.”

On seven under, the 29-year-old was clearly a very happy and determined man once he went back to his hotel – in his words “to get away from the circus”. When he returned in the afternoon to start the third round, he was only four behind leaders Justin Thomas and Adam Scott. There was plenty of golf left and Sunday will be extremely long as the PGA Tour tries to avert a second Monday finish in as many weeks. Yet McIlroy will fancy his chances of a first title in 11 months if his dramatic improvement on the greens continues.

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