Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry had days to forget in the WGC HSBC Champions in China.
McIlroy looked frustrated and admitted to feeling flat as he could only managed a level par 72 and slipped 11 places to 27th on four under, 10 strokes behind leader Kevin Kisner, who has yet to drop a shot in posting rounds of 64 and 66 for a two shot lead over Scot Russell Knox.
it was even more aggravating for Lowry, who finished with a long range, three-putt bogey six for a three over 75 that leaves him tied 71st in the 78-man field on five over.
“I didn’t play very well today,” McIlroy said after suffering in tougher conditions at Sheshan International. "I was just a bit flat out there. So yeah, left myself a lot to do over the weekend but hopefully I can shoot a couple of good scores and get myself back up the leaderboard.”
Still recovering from food poisoning and the loss of 10lbs, McIlroy admitted he still wasn’t back to full fitness.
“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 per cent,” he said. "I struggled to hit balls today on the range, got a few cramps in the stomach. But I took a couple of tablets and it sort of went away as I went through the round. Still not 100 per cent but I’m getting there.”
He stil believes he can go low on the Shanghai course and needs to as he leads the Race to Dubai by just 400,000 points from Danny Willett, who is a shot ahead of him on five under despite adding a 74 to his opening 65.
“There definitely is [a low score out there]. You take advantage of the par 5s and a few of the other sort of gettable holes; I've shot 63 around here before. No reason why I can’t go out and shoot a score like that over the weekend and get myself somewhat back in the tournament.
"I played okay. I started off okay, and 2-under through nine I guess, and feeling like I could at least shoot something similar to yesterday and be right up there.
"You know, missed a few chances on the back nine, a couple of loose shots, a couple of bogeys and that was really the story of my day. Bogeyed two of the short par 4s out there and didn’t really take advantage of the par 5s on the back nine to try and salvage some sort of score. So yeah, a bit of a disappointing day.”
The week certainly sums up his year - physical ups and downs to go with good, the bad, the ugly and the sometimes brilliant on the golf course.
“To sum up my year, it’s been a little bit like that,” he said. “I feel I've taken a couple of good steps forward and I'll knock back a bit and try to get going again.
"That does feel how the year's went for me a little bit, but as I've kept saying, try to end this year on a high note and play well over the weekend here and try and play well in Dubai.
"If I can get a big finish over the next two days and then in Dubai, at least go into next year with some -- I mean, there's a few positives to take. But with the good finish of the season hopefully fresh in my mind, then I can get off to a good start next year, as well.”
At the top of the leaderboard, Kisner opened up a two-shot lead courtesy of a bogey-free six under par round of 66.
Making his debut in the tournament, the American picked up two shots over the last three holes at Sheshan International Golf Club to add to the four birdies he gained on the front nine as he moved to 14 under par and past Knox at the top of the leaderboard.
After gaining a late spot in the field having been seventh reserve, Knox is making the most of his unexpected opportunity, setting the clubhouse target on 12 under par with a flawless seven under par round of 65 before being overtaken by Kisner.
First round leader Branden Grace is a further two shots back in third place on 10 under after his one under 71 with American Patrick Reed (70) and China’s Li Hao-tong (69) sharing fourth place on nine under par.
Kevin Kisner, 66 (-14 total):
“It’s beyond my expectations. I had no expectations coming in, so it’s been good. I’m making a lot of putts and that’s fun keeping the round going when I miss a green. I’m looking forward to the weekend.
“It is tough to get it in the fairway. Every hole seems to be a crosswind, especially on that back nine. Trying to get the angle of the fairway with the crosswind is difficult and the rough is up, but when I missed them, I made par and when I hit them I made some birdies. Hopefully I can keep that game plan going this weekend.”
Russell Knox, 65 (-12 total)
“I played nicely in Malaysia last week and getting in here was obviously a bonus. I found out on Friday via e-mail when they said there was a chance I could get in. My wife was a superstar and she filled out all the forms for us, and while we were playing on Friday, she took all the stuff to the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur and had all the stuff processed. Then we had to wait around until Monday at 2pm to get them back and they gave us our passports. Then we flew here on Tuesday morning here.”
Branden Grace, 71 (-10 total)
“It was tough out there. The wind was blowing. It’s hard, as most of these holes are tree-lined, so it’s tough to really trust the wind. I think that’s one of the things I struggled with on the back nine. I played pretty well through ten holes and didn’t really make mistakes, but maybe lost a little bit of concentration and then you’re going to let a couple slip out there. But I’m still up there. It would’ve been nice for a couple of putts to go in towards the end, but I think I’m only a few back. It’s still I long weekend ahead.”
Complete round two scores (par 72)
130 K Kisner (USA) 64 66,
132 R Knox (Sco) 67 65,
134 B Grace (RSA) 63 71,
135 P Reed (USA) 65 70, L Haotong (Chn) 66 69,
136 B Wiesberger (Aut) 70 66, H Mahan (USA) 68 68, D Johnson (USA) 65 71,
137 B An (Kor) 69 68, L Oosthuizen (RSA) 68 69, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 68 69, S Hend (Aus) 68 69,
138 R Fisher (Eng) 69 69, S Garcia (Esp) 68 70, H English (USA) 67 71, T Fleetwood (Eng) 67 71, T Olesen (Den) 64 74, T Pieters (Bel) 67 71,
139 D Willett (Eng) 65 74, S Bowditch (Aus) 64 75, Z Xinjun (Chn) 67 72, J Morrison (Eng) 69 70, D Berger (USA) 68 71, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 70, P Casey (Eng) 67 72, S Kjeldsen (Den) 68 71,
140 T Jaidee (Tha) 72 68, M Kaymer (Ger) 69 71, J Spieth (USA) 68 72, C Schwartzel (RSA) 68 72, G Woodland (USA) 69 71, R Lee (Can) 68 72, E Grillo (Arg) 69 71, R Fowler (USA) 68 72, R McIlroy (Nir) 68 72, L Donald (Eng) 71 69,
141 D Zecheng (Chn) 70 71, S Chawrasia (Ind) 69 72, T Aiken (RSA) 70 71, J Thomas (USA) 72 69, M Leishman (Aus) 69 72, L Westwood (Eng) 72 69, H Stenson (Swe) 69 72, T Fisher Jnr (RSA) 67 74, D Howell (Eng) 73 68, B Watson (USA) 68 73,
142 D Lingmerth (Swe) 70 72, D Summerhays (USA) 68 74, R Streb (USA) 73 69,
143 W Ashun (Chn) 69 74, S Piercy (USA) 70 73, I Poulter (Eng) 72 71,
144 H Matsuyama (Jpn) 71 73, A Sullivan (Eng) 70 74, K Na (USA) 72 72, L Wenchong (Chn) 71 73, C Wood (Eng) 68 76, C Smith (Aus) 71 73, M Jones (Aus) 74 70, D Lee (Nzl) 71 73,
145 K Kim (Kor) 74 71, A Lahiri (Ind) 70 75, N Cullen (Aus) 74 71, D Chia (Mas) 72 73, M Jiménez (Esp) 73 72,
146 A Noren (Swe) 70 76, G Chalmers (Aus) 73 73, T Hatton (Eng) 70 76,
147 H Iwata (Jpn) 70 77,
148 C Yi (Chn) 70 78,
149 M Warren (Sco) 75 74, Shane Lowry (Irl) 74 75,
150 A Dodt (Aus) 70 80, C Kirk (USA) 71 79, D Van Tonder (RSA) 77 73, S Kodaira (Jpn) 74 76,
151 A Scott (Aus) 75 76,
154 S Jeffress (Aus) 76 78.