The Irishman produced a superb bogey-free eight-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead over Scotland’s Marc Warren at 14-under.
McIlroy underlined his class by closing with three successive birdies but even so, he would have come off the course with the feeling he could have gone even lower on a track where he recorded his maiden professional victory in 2009.
McIlroy again displayed his enormous class and clearly showing no apparent concern ahead of next Tuesday’s Dublin High Court hearing with birdies on his closing three holes to overhaul Warren and lead by a shot.
Graeme McDowell produced a 65 to be tied in third place at 12-under par with England’s Seve Benson (66).
McIlroy commenced his second day at six under par and quickly raced to nine under par with three birdies in his opening five holes.
He then parred the next four before back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 ahead of another four pars in-a-row and with the four-time Major winner displaying his enormous class with birdies at his closing three holes.
“I’m definitely in a great position going into the weekend,” he said.
“I felt like I played very nicely today and I couldn’t ask for much more, bogey-free, made birdies and set myself up for a good run over the next couple days.”
But when McIlroy was reminded that since capturing the Open, WGC–Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship he has then been runner-up in his next three events, the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship, European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship and last fortnight’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, he declared those ‘bridesmaid’ roles to be unacceptable.
“I know I’m playing well enough to win. So there’s no point in being satisfied with second, when you know you’re playing well enough to lift trophies, ” he said
And McIlroy’s second round is the first occasion in six rounds this season he hasn’t dropped a shot.
McDowell capped his second competitive display this year with eight birdies including four in succession from his 11th hole but now feels under pressure to continue in the same vein.
“With the way the scoring has been these two days I am under no illusions I have to keep the pedal to metal because anything under 20-under par is not going to win this week,” he said.
“I am going to have to take my chances on the first three holes and the last nine, as that’s where everyone seems to be making their scores.
“So when I got here to the course last Sunday I saw that the rough was just penal enough to keep everyone honest and make driving accuracy one of the keys. But then it’s very satisfying to hit the ground running in my first event of a New Year as after taking six weeks off, my expectation levels were low because you always expect a little rust.”
Joining McIlroy and McDowell over the last two days is Damien McGrane (70) at three under par along with Michael Hoey (70) and Peter Lawrie (69) both at two under par and right on the cut.