Thursday 18 December 2014

What Friday hoodoo? Majestic Rory McIlroy masters Hoylake to take four-shot lead into the weekend

Carl Markham

Published 18/07/2014 | 19:46

HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 18:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from a bunker on the 16th hole during the second round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 18, 2014 in Hoylake, England.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from a bunker on the 16th hole during the second round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot from the rough on the 12th hole during the second round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland acknowledges the crowd during the second round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the fifth hole during the second round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks at a pheasant as it walks across the eighth green during the second round of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from a bunker on the 16th hole during the second round of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the fourth tee during the second round of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake
A pheasant walks in front of Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland on the eighth green during the second round of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake

Open Championship leader Rory McIlroy found an "inner peace" on the Royal Liverpool links which he believed put an end to his Freaky Friday reputation.

The Northern Irishman carded a second successive 66 to move to 12 under, four shots clear of American Dustin Johnson.

Even a pheasant wandering across the eighth green as he lined up another birdie putt failed to distract him from the task in hand.

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His second round had been built up into something much more significant than it should have been because of the problems he has had in following one good 18 holes with another.

"I just feel like I have an inner peace on the golf course. I'm very comfortable in this position, doing what I'm doing right now," said McIlroy, who is bidding to become only the third person to win a third major by the age of 25 after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

"It's hard to describe. I wish I could get into it more often. If I'm able to do it a few times a year, that's nice.

"It's a combination of confidence, just being mentally strong, mentally aware of everything, but I think it all comes down to if you're confident with your game and you're in control of your ball out there it makes things a lot easier.

"I just take it as I feel it. I've got a couple of little trigger words that I'm using this week that I keep telling myself in my head when I'm just about to hit it, go into a shot.

"That's as complex as it gets in my head. People call it the zone; it's just a state of mind where you think clearly.

"It's nice to go out and shoot a good one today so I don't have to be asked about it (his second round syndrome) again until I might shoot a good score at Akron (the WGC Bridgestone Invitational) and then people are asking me on Thursday afternoon.

"It's understandable. My second rounds this year have been terrible and there isn't really any explanation but hopefully I put it to bed today."

McIlroy said he was happy with his game and it showed even after he bogeyed the first hole.

It took him until the par-five fifth to regain that lost ground but from there he did not look back as it began a run of seven birdies in his last 14 holes.

"Everything seems to be on the right track. I've always said, whenever you play this well you always wonder how you've played so badly before," he added.

"And whenever you've play so badly, you always wonder how you play so well.

"Golf is a very fickle game. I'm happy where my game is at the minute and hopefully I can just keep up the solid play for another couple of days.

"As I said yesterday you try to enjoy every minute of it, even if sometimes it feels like a bit of a grind and you're working extremely hard to keep it together or try to make some more birdies or whatever it is.

"But the atmosphere out there is incredible. To be able to play in front of crowds like that you have to enjoy it.

"It makes it easier when you are shooting 66s and you are in the lead.

"Yeah, I've been in this position before in major championships but I haven't been in this position in the Open Championship.

"I'm just really looking forward to the weekend and hopefully continuing the strong play that you've seen so far."

A birdie on the last for Graeme McDowell means that he is the next best Irish player on -1 alongside Shane Lowry who recovered from two double bogeys in a row on seven and eight.

Darren Clarke matched his 72 on the opening day and goes into the weekend on level par.

Amateur Paul Dunne missed the cut by two strokes after a 73 saw him finish on +4.

Padraig Harrington endured a tough day and finished on eight over after a 78.

There was also tragic news for Padraig Harrington's long-time coach Bob Torrance who sadly passed away this evening.

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