Tuesday 20 February 2018

Battling display in atrocious weather leaves Rory with huge task to get back in contention for the Claret Jug as Mickelson leads

Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy has to dig deep into his reserves of self-belief if he is to make up ground on overnight leader Phil Mickelson in the Open Championship at Royal Troon.

McIlroy finished eight shots behind the 10-under-par pace set by Mickelson who showed no signs of weakening yesterday as he retained his place at the head of the leaderboard after the second round.

Sweden's Henrik Stenson is one behind on nine-under par, but McIlroy's mantra is "believe" as he prepares for the traditional Saturday 'moving day'.

In his eyes, it has to be 'mission very possible' to give himself a chance of winning the Open for the second time.

"I feel like it's possible. There are 36 holes to go," he said.

"Obviously the guys at the top of the leaderboard are playing very well.

"I had a chance to watch Phil yesterday afternoon and this morning, and it's the best I've seen him play in a long, long time.

"His swing's good. He's got his ball flight under control. He seems like he's putting well.

"And obviously Henrik and the guys that are up there as well, they're going to be tough to beat.

"But I've given people head starts before and been able to win, and I'm just going to try to draw on those memories," he said.

It is a tough task, particularly on this course where the two nines offer contrasting levels of difficulty.

And the weather has to play a role as well.

"It really depends what the conditions are like. I think it's going to be drier tomorrow, but maybe the same amount of wind.

"Depending on what direction it comes from, again, you've seen guys shoot four-, five-, six-under par on the front nine, so if I can do that I could get closer to the leaders.

"The back nine, no matter what wind you get, is going to be very difficult. So, again, just try to get off to a fast start," he said.

McIlroy did get the fast start he wanted yesterday, firing four birdies in seven holes, before hitting a blip with three-putt bogey on nine. He only had one birdie on the back nine, with three bogeys in the worst of the weather stalling his bid to make up ground.

Now the four-time Major champion needs to be strong mentally.

"I'm eight shots back. I'm trying to be as optimistic as I can, I guess.

"I can draw on memories of being in similar positions going into weekends and having won.

"But this is a little different. It's the Open Championship and the conditions are a little tougher. But, yeah, I'm optimistic. I feel like I've played well. I think that's the great thing.

"I'm in this position where I've played very well, so I'm happy with that," he said.

Three other Irish players made the cut - Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.

McDowell finished his morning round convinced that his four-over par total would be a couple of shots too many, but the afternoon weather sent scores soaring.

Irish Independent

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