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McIlroy suddenly in striking distance

By Associated Press in San Antonio | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-07 07:13

Rory McIlroy didn't anticipate an encounter with the native plant life when he signed up for the Texas Open.

Despite just such a happening on Friday, the world's No 2 golfer matched the low round of the day with a 5-under par 67 and moved within three shots of leader Billy Horschel, continuing his last-minute preparations for next week's Masters.

McIlroy, who decided to play in the tournament late last week, had seven birdies - including his final three holes - and overcame a bogey on No 9 after driving into the rough and catching his left shin on a nearby cactus.

The misstep dropped McIlroy to 1 under, but he rebounded with key putts on the final three holes for birdies and pulled well within reach of the leaders entering the weekend.

"It was a good way to finish," McIlroy said. "It will definitely make dinner taste a little nicer tonight and give me a couple of more hours in bed tomorrow morning."

The 23-year-old two-time major winner is three shots back of Horschel, who birdied his last two holes to post his second straight 4-under 68.

A group of three players - Daniel Summerhays, Charley Hoffman and Steven Bowditch - are two shots back at 6 under, while McIlroy is tied with six others at 5 under.

Thursday's co-leaders, Matt Bettencourt and Peter Tomasulo, each shot 1-over 73s and fell four shots off the lead.

Bettencourt went as low as 8-under in the surprisingly calm Texas weather on Friday morning before falling back after a stretch of three bogeys in four holes once the wind picked up ever-so slightly.

Summerhays also reached as low as 7-under before falling back with a bogey on No 9, but it was Horschel who separated himself with his late flurry.

Horschel jumped from 60th to 24th on the money list after a second-place finish at last week's Houston Open. He closed out Thursday's round with a birdie, and one-upped that on Friday - closing with a pair of 11-foot birdie putts on No 17 and 18 to vault into first.

"Today, I knew there was not going to be very much wind, so you had to take advantage of this golf course," Horschel said.

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