RORY MCILROY waltzed into gold medal contention – and revealed his favourite thing about the Olympics is watching the ‘dancing horses’.
McIlroy added a five under par 66 to his opening 69, to move to within four shots of halfway leader Xander Schauffele.
And he said the first thing he wanted to do after signing his card was to catch up with the dressage event, which is taking place a two hour drive away from the Kasumigaseki Country Club course.
He explained: “That’s the one thing that I would love to go and see live. It’s the thing that has always captivated me. But the distances involved, and the clash of timings, means I can only watch it on TV.
“I watch it once every few years, and it’s like – I don’t know, it’s just mesmerizing. It’s really cool, and for me it is a huge part of the Olympics.”
McIlroy, 32, admitted he had decided to play for Ireland in Japan more from a sense of duty than one of excitement.
But he says that has all changed since he hit his opening tee shot.
He explained: “It’s funny, when you approach tournaments without that sense of huge anticipation, you often end up playing some of your best golf.
“Sometimes you can want things too much. But since I’ve been here, I’ve gotten the buzz.
“I obviously never obviously competed in an Olympic Games before – just watched them from afar.
“But being a part of something that’s completely different and bigger than me and even our sport in general, that’s a pretty cool thing.
“So coming I didn’t know if this was going to be my only Olympics that I play. But I’m already looking forward to Paris.”
McIlroy got everyone excited with a stunning scoring burst towards the end of the front nine. He bagged birdies at the sixth and seventh, and added a brilliant eagle at the long eighth.
The four-time Major champion cooled off on the back nine – but the same thing could not be said of 36 hole leader Schauffele.
He was a shot behind McIlroy before bagging his second eagle at the 14th, and finished with a hat-trick of birdies to storm to the top of the leaderboard.
Schauffele holed his final putt just moments before the hooter sounded for the second delay of the round, because of nearby thunderstorms.
That signalled an early end to the day’s play, with one of Schauffele’s playing partners, Christiaan Bezuidenhout forced to back off a tap-in for par at the last. He will have to come back tomorrow to finish off.
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Paul Casey is also among the 16 players who failed to complete the second round. The stoppage could not have come at a worse time – a run of three birdies in four holes saw him join McIlroy on seven under, with one hole to play.
McIlroy’s Irish team-mate, former Open champion Shane Lowry, was already in the clubhouse on the same mark, thanks to a second round 65.
But Casey’s fellow GB representative, Tommy Fleetwood, has plenty of work to do. Rounds of 70-69 left him eight shots off the place, on three under.