Rory McIlroy vaults up Olympic leaderboard with blistering 3-hole run

Rory McIlroy at Olympics in Tokyo

Rory McIlroy put the field on notice early on Day 2 at the Tokyo Olympics.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

UPDATE: McIlroy signed for a five-under 66 in the second round to move to seven under for the tournament. He’s tied for seventh, four back of leader Xander Schauffele.

No one would disagree that Rory McIlroy is one of the most talented golfers on the planet, and possibly the most talented at the Tokyo Olympics.

When it’s working, such immense skill occasionally enables the four-time major champion to quickly collect red numbers in bunches, and even change the entire face of a tournament in just a few holes.

Tokyo , Japan - 29 July 2021; Rory McIlroy of Ireland on the 18th during round 1 of the men's individual stroke play at the Kasumigaseki Country Club during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
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And that’s exactly what happened on Friday morning (or Thursday night if you’re in the U.S.) in the second round at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

McIlroy began the day a two under, having marred four birdies with two bogeys in the opening round of the 72-hole men’s Olympic event. He trailed the lead by a distant six shots, but that would all change in a hurry.

As first-round leader Sepp Straka struggled out of the gate, the lead didn’t move from the eight under number where it started the day, with Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond taking over the top position.

Beginning his second round Friday morning at 8:25 a.m. ET Tokyo time (7:25 p.m. Thursday on the East Coast of the U.S.), McIlroy didn’t immediately show any signs of the onslaught to come, opening with five-straight pars.

But by the time he teed off on No. 9, McIlroy was suddenly just two shots off the lead. A birdie at the par-4 6th hole started his momentum. At the par-3 7th, he made a 2, improving his score to four under.

He did one better at the next hole, rolling in a mid-length eagle putt to reach six under and halve Janewattananond’s advantage. All in all, it was an incredible four-under run in a three-hole stretch.

He nearly kept the run going at 10, but was left stunned when his birdie putt lipped out. With lots of golf left to play, McIlroy is starting to look like the player to to beat in Tokyo and is putting himself in great position to add some more hardware to his already stuffed trophy case.

Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.