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Rory McIlroy holds the 36-hole lead at the St Jude Classic in Memphis

Updated: Saturday, 09 Jun 2012 11:26 | Comments

Could Rory McIlroy be hitting form at the right time ahead of his US Open defence?
Could Rory McIlroy be hitting form at the right time ahead of his US Open defence?

Rory McIlroy continued to put his recent woes behind him by taking the 36-hole lead at the St Jude Classic in Memphis.

McIlroy, who will defend his US Open title in San Francisco next week, came into the event on the back of three straight missed cuts but opened with a solid round of 68 at TPC Southwind.

And the Northern Irishman shot a five-under second round of 65 to go a shot clear on top of the leaderboard at seven under. A chasing pack of three are one shot behind: JB Holmes, Jeff Maggert and Kevin Stadler locked together on six under.

McIlroy parred the opening hole and then picked up a birdie on the second before carding an eagle three on the third. Six straight pars followed to complete an outward half of 32 and keep the world number two right in contention.

His form was a mixed bag after the turn, with another birdie at 11 before back-to-back bogies at the next two holes.

While they could have derailed him, the 23-year-old responded in perfect fashion, picking up shots in three of the last four holes to end on a high.

Holmes' 64 was the round of the day.

He shot up 26 places in the standings as he followed a middling 70 on day one with an at-times inspired effort.

The front nine were particularly productive, with six birdies including a hot streak between holes five and nine.

He was par for the back nine, with a birdie and a bogey cancelling each other out.

Previous leader Maggert enjoyed a reasonably sedate day, signing for a 68 after three birdies and a bogey.

Irishman Padraig Harrington was the next best European in the field, ending in a four-way tie for eighth after shooting 68 for the second day in a row to close three off the lead.

Zach Johnson was a high-profile faller, missing the cut on four over par, while McIlroy fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, also a former US Open champion, was also heading home after a grim 75.

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