McIlroy on track to trouser $11.4m after pocket shot

The odds might have been in the millions but the only number Rory McIlroy has in mind is No 1 after he took advantage of an outrageous stroke of fortune to lurk menacingly just two strokes off the lead at the halfway stage of the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

Chasing a win worth $11.4m — $1.4m for what would be his fifth win of the year worldwide and $10m for the FedEx Cup bonus — the four-time major winner hit a tree and saw his ball finish in a fan's pocket before getting a free drop and making a simple par en route to a five under 65.

It was a score that allowed him to cut a shot out of Billy Horschel's lead (66) and join his former Walker Cup rival in the final group on Saturday, tied for second with Jason Day on six under par.

Believing he's got nothing to lose after winning two majors and a WGC to guarantee himself the US money title, McIlroy wants the only big title — apart from the Masters — that's eluded him so far in his career.

"I'm the one that's had the great season," he said of the pressure he's facing compared to his rivals. "Those are the guys that are trying to cap off a great season for themselves.

"[The FedExCup] would be the icing on the cake, really. I wanted to cap it off in style and I've given myself a chance to do that over the next two days."

The Holywood native played far better than he did in Thursday's 69 but still needed a stroke of luck to keep his round going.

He got it at the 14th.

"It hit up on the tree and ricocheted straight into his pocket," McIlroy said. "I wasn't going in there. I know how sweaty my pockets are. I'm not going into anyone else's."

Putting has been one of McIlroy's strong suits this year and he holed two big putts at the 17th and 18th from 20 feet and 27 feet respectively to turn a good day into a great one.

"I was comfortable with my swing," said McIlroy, who had six birdies and just one bogey. "[I was] comfortable with the shape I was hitting the ball. I still hit a few missed shots out there, but nowhere as many as I did [on Thursday]."

After holing from 11 feet for a birdie two at the second, he following a bogey at the fourth with birdies at the sixth and seventh before holing a 10 feet at the 12th to get to three under for the day.

While he has yet to birdie a par-five in two rounds, McIlroy made another crucial par save at the 16th for the second day running, this time from 13 feet. Then came those two late birdies.

"No matter what happens over the weekend, it's going to be OK," McIlroy said. "I just want to finish my season off the way I feel like I should and the way I feel like it deserves to be finished off.

"I'm not putting too much pressure on myself because it's already been a great year. But I still want to win this thing."