NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom (AFP) - Rory McIlroy's indifferent season continued as he trailed leader Tyrell Hatton by eight shots at the halfway stage of the British Masters at Close House in Newcastle on Friday (Sept 29).
McIlroy managed three birdies but also dropped shots on two of his first five holes, in a no-frills one-under par 69 for a four-under par total in the north-east of England.
England's Hatton toughed-out the wet and miserable morning conditions to emerge with a three-shot lead, adding a five-under par 65 to his opening 63 to move three clear of the field.
McIlroy's presence for the last two rounds will have come as a huge relief to Ryder Cup team-mate and tournament host Lee Westwood, as another of the big draws, Masters champion Sergio Garcia, missed the cut by a stroke.
Four-time major winner McIlroy managed to fight back from bogeys at his second and fifth holes to birdie his sixth, 11th and 17th holes and finish two shots inside the two-under par cut-off mark.
"It was okay. It was a little bit of a struggle but as least we got the better of the conditions," said McIlroy, who was followed by a huge crowd including former England football captain Alan Shearer.
"We didn't have to contend with the rain like the guys did in the morning, but the wind got up in the morning, which made it a bit trickier.
"So, there was chances out there but I just didn't get off to a great start. I played okay on the way in, but I obviously need to go a bit lower on the weekend to have a chance."
'FEW MORE PUTTS TO DROP'
McIlroy, in what is his penultimate event of the year, was especially wasteful with his putting.
"I just need a few more putts to drop as I feel like I'm hitting decent putts," he said.
"I'm not reading them right, at all. I hit a couple of weak ones out there, as well. Keep giving myself chances, and hopefully a few putts drop."
World number 29 Hatton arrived at the course struggling with his game, having missed the cut in four of his past six events and only managing to turn it around with a share of third in his last event in Switzerland.
"I was very happy with that round as it was pretty tough out there this morning with the rain coming down," said Hatton.
"I am a lot more comfortable with my game as I got a lot of confidence from my result in Switzerland after a poor summer.
"I have hit a lot of good iron shots and the putter feels good as it has been very cold for some time."
Five players - the English quartet of Westwood (65), Ian Poulter (65), Chris Hanson (67) and Ashley Chesters (66), along with Swedish veteran Robert Karlsson (65) - share second place at nine-under par.