McIlroy eight shots off the pace at British Masters

Rory McIlroy could only add a 69 to his opening 67 to lie eight shots off the pace on four under alongside former Masters champion Danny Willett.

Tyrrell Hatton bemoaned missing out on the launch of FIFA 18 as he remained on course for some real silverware at the halfway stage of the British Masters.

On the day the latest version of the popular videogame was released, Hatton added a second round of 65 to his opening 63 at Close House as English players filled seven of the top nine places in the £3million event.

At 12 under par, Hatton enjoyed a three-shot lead over tournament host Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Ashley Chesters, Chris Hanson and Robert Karlsson, with Graeme Storm and Lee Slattery on eight under with Finland's Mikko Ilonen.

McIlroy teeing off today.

"I'm absolutely devastated I can't play FIFA 18," Hatton said after a round containing six birdies and one bogey. "It's just as well I'm away for another few weeks otherwise I'd probably waste 12 hours a day on it.

"I'm looking forward to getting home and playing that, but at the same time I'm really looking forward to the weekend ahead.

"I went to this event with the England Under-18 practice squad when it was at The Belfry and it's a great event, one that I'll always have on my schedule.

"It's good to be back in form with a big run of events coming up with huge world ranking points. I'd like to play as well as I can and climb up the world rankings and secure (a place) in all four majors again next year."

Westwood added a 65 to his opening 66 and has yet to drop a shot this week despite coping with the demands of hosting the event, which included hiring an extra field for additional parking as more than 18,000 spectators attended on Thursday.

"It was nice to stand on that first tee yesterday and see so many people here and the course in such great condition, and then it was nice to play so well," the former world number one said.

"I like my position going into the weekend and I guess it's nice for the host to be in contention.

"I've been busy for a year basically, then very busy for the last week and extremely busy for the last three days, so when I slipped my spikes on yesterday afternoon it was a bit of a relief to actually be a golfer again, to come up here and not have somebody asking where we're putting a tee or where we're putting a flag."

Poulter celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary by also shooting a 65 to move into contention for a first victory since 2012, four of his six birdies coming in succession from the 12th.

"It's generally the week of the Ryder Cup so that's always been an awkward one as well," Poulter said of his anniversary. "Katie's not here but I sent a big bunch of roses."

Poulter's last victory came in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, but the former Ryder Cup star is simply focusing on trying to qualify for that same event this year.

"I've still got some good golf left to play, I want to press forward," he added. "I'm ticking goals off at a decent rate at the minute.

"I want to take care of top 50 in the world by the end of this week to get into HSBC Champions and then we'll take it from there."

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