Irish dynamos Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell carded a second-round four-under 68 at the World Cup to share first place with pacesetters Australia on Friday.
World No.2 McIlroy and 2010 US Open champion McDowell shot six birdies and two bogeys during the challenging foursomes alternate shot format on the muggy southern Chinese island of Hainan.
“We struggled to find our rhythm a little bit on the front nine. Rory putted really well today, which kept things together,” said McDowell.
“I’ve struggled a little bit on the greens the last couple of days. But I was happy the way I swung the club in general and Rory is playing lovely.”
Current US Open champion McIlroy added: “I think both of us are very pleased about the score that we ended up shooting today.
“Anything in the 60s in the foursomes format is a very reasonable score out there.”
Determined Australians Brendan Jones and Richard Green crafted an eagle and three birdies in their 70, but were undone with two bogeys in the humid, wet and windy conditions.
They and the Irish pairing top the leaderboard on 13-under-par 131 after two days of the $US7.5 million tournament.
“We spoke about our strategy last night and we decided that anything under par in this form is going to do alright. So a 70 today achieved that goal, I guess,” said Green.
“It’s a bit of a shame to have finished with a bogey. But it’s a very difficult finish to this golf course and a very demanding 18th hole. Hopefully, we can work that out for the weekend and not do that on Sunday.”
Scottish stalwarts Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher fired four birdies in their 69 to secure third place on 12-under overall.
New Zealand pairing Michael Hendry and Gareth Paddison zipped up the leaderboard to tie for fourth on 10-under with Spain and the USA after shooting eight birdies during their impressive 68.
Hosts China were the second round’s other big movers, to the acclaim of the home crowd, with Liang Wenchong and Zhang Xinjun carding six birdies and two eagles in their 68 to tie 10th.
England’s Ian Poulter and Justin Rose are tied for seventh with Mexico and the Netherlands.
The 28 national teams return to the fourballs format for the third round on Saturday on the Blackstone course at the Mission Hills golf resort.
About 120,000 tickets have been sold for the tournament and, in Sunday’s final round, there will be a return to the tricky foursomes alternate shot game.
The World Cup is being staged biennially following golf’s inclusion in the Olympics from 2016.