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June 9 2012

12:08 AM

Round 2 wrap-up: Rory takes top spot

He's back

Rory McIlroy talks about his solid iron play and the areas where he needs to improve.

  By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM Rory McIlroy is gaining confidence. It's identifiable in the inflection of his voice. It's visable by the way he's attacking the flag again. McIlroy birdied three of his final four holes for a 5-under 65 on Friday to take the outright lead at 7 under at the midway point of the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn. McIlroy hit his share of huge drives and towering iron shots, looking more like the player who won the U.S. Open last year at Congressional than the one who had missed three straight cuts. "You know, it was a really, really good round of golf out there today," said McIlroy, who also eagled the par-5 third hole after hitting his second shot to 9 feet. "I saw a lot of positive signs with my ball-striking. Hit a lot of good iron shots and drivers. So that was something that I was really working on the last couple of weeks and feels like it's coming together for me. So excited to be in this position going into the week." McIlroy held a one-shot lead over J.B. Holmes (64), first-round co-leader Jeff Maggert (68) and Kevin Stadler (65). John Merrick (69), who shared the 18-hole lead with Maggert, Chad Campbell (67) and Kevin Kisner (66) were only two shots back. Holmes carded an outward 6-under 29 and is looking for his first PGA TOUR win since 2008. He seems to be returning to form -- he had a T13 last week at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance -- after undergoing brain surgery in September. "I just kind of hit everything -- I wasn't knocking pins down, but I hit them in there pretty close," Holmes said. "Made a couple 6-footers, but I putted well. I was hitting it 15, 20 feet and making some putts." McIlroy, meanwhile, still had room for improvement. He bogeyed Nos. 12 and 13 and did miss some short putts. He missed from 3 feet for par on 13 and also missed a 3 1/2-footer for eagle on 16 after his second shot settled just past the hole. "Could have been even better," McIlroy said. "Could have made eagle on 16, but, you know, to finish strong the way I did was great and it gives me momentum going into tomorrow." McIlroy, ranked eighth in FedExCup points, tallied four top-3 finishes in his first five events on the PGA TOUR this season -- which included a victory at The Honda Classic. He then missed cuts at THE PLAYERS, BMW PGA Championship and the Memorial. But it appears those struggles are behind him -- at least this week. "It's nice to see my name on that part of the leaderboard," McIlroy said. "It's not nice when you're struggling to make the cut on a Friday afternoon. It was great. It's nice to be through to the weekend, obviously. It's obviously even nicer to be leading and have a great chance."
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