Australian duo Jason Scrivener and Wade Ormsby sit alongside a relaxed Rory McIlroy as the Northern Irishman tries to end a disappointing season in style in the British Masters.
Scrivener, Ormsby and McIlroy, who was a late entry into the STG3 million ($5.1m) event after failing to qualify for the Tour Championship, carded a three-under-par 67 to lie four shots behind leaders Tyrrell Hatton and George Coetzee at Close House.
But it could have been a different story for four-time major winner McIlroy if a spectator had not found his ball inside the five-minute time limit after a wild drive on the 17th, his eighth hole of the day.
McIlroy produced a superb recovery from thick rough to the elevated green and went on to make three birdies on the front nine in his penultimate tournament of an injury-plagued season.
“It’s not a bad way to feel,” the 28-year-old said. “You’re not really looking ahead at anything, you’re just concentrating on the round out there and not thinking about anything else.
“I feel like I’m not under any pressure to perform at all, I’m not putting myself under any pressure. That’s probably the reason I’ve went out there and shot a decent score.
“I think if you asked 75 per cent of the guys out here they would say it would be nice to have some sort of an off-season.
“I’m just giving myself an off-season this year and looking forward to improving my health, improving my game and becoming a better player in 2018.”
Tournament host Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter all shot 66, but Masters champion Sergio Garcia had to settle for a level-par 70. Defending champion Alex Noren finished one-over.
Brett Rumford was the next best Australian at one-over while Scott Hend (two-over), Nathan Holman and Sam Brazel (three-over) and Marcus Fraser (four-over) could be in danger of missing the weekend.