HONG KONG - A weary Rory McIlroy dropped two shots over his final three holes but still managed to cling on to a share of the lead after the second round of the co-sanctioned Hong Kong Open on Friday.
The U.S. Open champion had led by two shots late in his round but eventually settled for a one-under 69 to sit alongside overnight co-leader Alvaro Quiros of Spain, who matched the Northern Irishman’s halfway total of seven-under par 133.
McIlroy sits third on the European Tour money list and a win here would close the gap on Race to Dubai leader Luke Donald, but the long season appears to be taking its toll on the 22-year-old, who admitted he recently made two trips to hospital.
“I got sick for a few days in between the HSBC Champions and the World Cup,” McIlroy told reporters of his experience between the events held in the first and last weeks of November.
“It sort of took a little bit of energy out of me. I was on a drip for three days actually in the Maldives which wasn’t too nice.
“My energy levels were down but then it’s the end of season, and I’m sure it’s not just me that’s feeling like this.”
McIlroy was holidaying in the Maldives with his girlfriend, Danish world number one tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, and later spent another spell on an intravenous drip in Dubai prior to last week’s World Cup in China.
“It’s been a long season, and there’s a couple of more weeks left and we get to enjoy Christmas,” he added.
“I just don’t feel 100 percent, so you could put today’s round down to that. It was just a couple of loose swings toward the end.”
The 28-year-old Quiros matched McIlroy’s four birdie-three bogey round and was quick to display his famous sense of humour when asked how it felt to be leading at the halfway mark as he sought a second title of the season.
“Well, I made the cut, which is something good, something positive, having consideration that this golf course is not a typical fit for me, so I’m happy,” the Spaniard said.
The Fanling course may not suit Quiros’s big-hitting style but the event appears to fit well with his compatriots after Jose Maria Olazabal (2001), Jose Manuel Lara (2006) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (2007) all enjoyed recent victories on the tree-lined layout.
Briton Richie Ramsay and Thailand’s Panupol Pittayarat sit one shot behind the joint leaders on six-under par with Jimenez, New Zealand’s Danny Lee and another Thai, Pariya Junhasavasdikul, a further stroke adrift in a tie for fifth.
Defending champion Ian Poulter also shot a one-under 69 but remains six shots off the pace at the $2.75 million event that he won with a 22-under-par total a year ago.
Meanwhile, Gareth Maybin kept alive his hopes of retaining a European Tour card for 2012 with a hole-in-one on the par-three fourth as part of a 73 that saw him end the day level with Poulter and six others in a tie for 21st.
The Northern Irishman arrived in Hong Kong lying 120th on the money list, still five places shy of retaining his card for next season.
The cut was made at two-over par which allowed Padraig Harrington, European Ryder Cup captains Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, and double major-winning American John Daly enough leeway to sneak into the field for the final two rounds.
Former Ryder Cup players Oliver Wilson and Niclas Fasth and triple European Tour winner Nick Dougherty missed the cut and have lost their playing privileges for 2012, leaving them outside the top 115 in the order of merit.
Swede Fasth, 39, a six-times tour winner who played in the 2002 Ryder Cup team, is 132nd on the money-list and could not improve his ranking after missing the Hong Kong event.
Wilson, 31, a member of the 2008 Ryder Cup side, loses his tour card for the first time since joining the circuit full time in 2005.
Dougherty, 29, has made only one cut in a desperately disappointing season.