Rory McIlroy produced another exhibition of his sublime talent to fire a seven under par 65 that earned him a share of the lead on the second day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
McIlroy began the day four under par at St Andrews, and eventually walked off the final green after carding six birdies and an eagle at The Home of Golf to earn himself a place at the top of the leaderboard alongside fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and Scot Richie Ramsay.
Needing a victory or a second-placed finish to go top of The Race To Dubai, the 20 year old produced a masterclass in links golf playing alongside his father Gerry.
Indeed, after carding a bogey at the 16th he recovered to finish with back-to-back birdies that included a three at the famous Road Hole and a drive on the 357 yard par four 18th hole that almost went through the back of the green.
“It was a great way to finish the round,” he explained.
“On the 16th I three-putted for my first bogey of the day and going onto the 17th Dad said to me, ‘you've finished with two three's here before, so why don't do you it again?’
“I was able to do it. I hit a great seven iron into the 17th to 12 feet and was able to hole it. I've never driven the 18th green before so it was nice to get one on to the green finally.
“I'm very pleased to be at 11 under and the last couple of months, I've just played really, really solid golf.”
Fellow leader Richie Ramsay was also delighted after he picked the perfect time to conjure up a superb 66 on the same course.
Ramsay, who only learned of his inclusion in the prestigious tournament in Scotland after Paul Casey’s withdrawal with a rib injury, built on his commendable opening day 67 at Carnoustie by going one better and carding a six under par score at St Andrews.
“St. Andrews is a special place and you want to do your best here,” he said.
“You watch it all the time as a boy, guys shooting scores to win tournaments here [at St Andrews] and it's nice to just have that score under your belt on a fantastic course and a massive tournament."
“I'm at the top of the leaderboard and I'm playing great and I've got to just take the same attitude that I've had for the first two rounds.”
Fellow leader Hoey, who signed for a six under par 66 at Carnoustie that included an eagle and four birdies, was in similar spirits after his score left him in contention for the first time since his victory in the Estoril Open de Portugal back in April.
“That's probably one of the best rounds I've ever played,” he beamed afterwards.
“It's just great and I'm enjoying the links golf. I played it as an amateur and it's great to be on the links. I'm really happy with the position I'm in and that's my goal to do better in the big events because I've struggled with them.”
Just a shot further back and part of a four-strong group - including Scot Alastair Forsyth, England's Ross McGowan and Finn Mikko Ilonen - was Simon Dyson in a tie for fourth.
Dyson propelled himself up the leaderboard with a bogey-free 66 around St Andrews to sit on ten under par.
“Every part of my game was good today,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of work in the last six weeks and I’m starting to get a little bit of reward for it, which is nice.”
The Englishman, a winner this season on The European Tour after capturing The KLM Open, also admitted that victory this week would round off a superb season.
“It would mean everything, to be honest,” he added.
“My pal [Nick Dougherty] did it a couple years ago and I was very jealous. It is a fantastic event.
“It's one of the biggest on the calendar and I don't think you couldn't win at a better place. This is one that everybody wants.”
Amid a plethora of low scores over all three of the courses, leader Hoey’s superb 66 at Carnoustie was matched by Kenneth Ferrie’s identical round on the same course.
His efforts earned him a share of eighth place along with David Dixon and José Manuel Lara, with the Englishman left content after registering seven birdies and a solitary birdie.
“It's a great score and any time you shoot under 70 at Carnoustie it's good,” he admitted.
“I think Carnoustie is just a great golf course. I think it's one of those courses where if you are brave enough to hit driver you can get some huge, huge advantages. The courses themselves are just fantastic.”