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Ireland maintains lead at World Cup

Omega Mission Hills World CupSHENZHEN, China – Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell combined for a 4-under 68 on Friday to keep Ireland atop the leaderboard after the second round of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

The Irish duo fired a 58 in Thursday's opening-round fourballs, but was 10 strokes worse in the foursomes, or alternate-shot format. McIlroy and McDowell are 18-under 126 and are three ahead at Mission Hills Golf Club.

'Foursomes is a different game,' said McDowell. 'In the better ball, you can be a little more aggressive. You can let it rip. Foursomes golf, you hit a bad shot you got your partner to get you out of trouble.'

The Swedish pair of Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson, who won this championship last year, shot a second-round, 7-under 65 and is alone in second at minus-15.

Italy, represented by Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, carded a 6-under 66 and is third at 14-under 130.

One day after a 58, Ireland started slowly on Friday.

The team parred its first three holes, then McDowell sank an 8-footer for birdie at the fourth. McIlroy hit an amazing shot to two feet to set up an easy McDowell eagle putt at the par-5 seventh and a 12-foot birdie from McDowell at No. 9 got Ireland to 18 under par and comfortably ahead.

Things got shaky on the back nine.

At the par-5 11th, a hole Ireland birdied on Thursday, the pair combined for a bogey. It got the stroke back with a birdie at the par-3 13th, but disaster loomed at 15.

Ireland eagled the par-5 hole in Round 1, but had trouble on Friday. McDowell tried to reach the green in two, but splashed his ball in water guarding the green. McIlroy took a drop and knocked the team's fourth to 20 feet. McDowell left his partner with three feet for bogey and McIlroy missed the putt to give the team an unlikely double-bogey.

Ireland was one in front of both Sweden and Italy after the hiccup at 15, but atoned for the error. McIlroy played his squad's approach to two feet to set up an easy birdie at 16 and the side made it two in a row with a birdie at the par-3 17th.

Suddenly, the Irish tandem was three clear and stayed ahead by that much with a par at the last.

'Obviously, it could've been a bit better,' said McIlroy, who just last week lost the money title to Lee Westwood. 'If we had turned that bogey and double-bogey on the par fives on the back nine into even one par and one birdie, we'd be a few more shots ahead.

'It's a solid day's work. I think we're both pretty happy with that score.'

The American tandem of Nick Watney and John Merrick carded an even-par 72 and sit 13 strokes in arrears, tied for 20th.

On Saturday, the format returns to four ball and on Sunday, it's back to foursomes.