Hoylake: Rory McIlroy was two clear of the field six holes into his second round at Royal Liverpool yesterday.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy. Pic/AFP.

The overnight leader by one, the Irishman saw his advantage disappear almost instantly as he overhit his approach to the first for a bogey. He was then joined on five under by Italians Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka of the United States and Sergio Garcia of Spain, who eagled the par four second.

But McIlroy, striking the ball beautifully again, had back-to-back birdies at five and six to move two strokes clear of the field. The leader in the clubhouse was South African George Coetzee who came in with a fine 69 to set the benchmark at five under.

And with the breeze stiffening over the Wirral links, he was a good bet to be still near the lead by the end of the round. There was trouble early on for Tiger Woods. He started at three under, but a double at the first and a bogey at the second saw him slip off the leaderboard at level par where he stayed through eight holes.