Monday 19 August 2019

'I'm in a great position' - Rory McIlroy exudes confidence going into the weekend at the British Open

Golf - The 147th Open Championship - Carnoustie, Britain - July 20, 2018 Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy reacts on the 18th during the second round REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Golf - The 147th Open Championship - Carnoustie, Britain - July 20, 2018 Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy reacts on the 18th during the second round REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Rory McIlroy finished his second round at the Open Championship just two shots off the lead after a testing day at Carnoustie.

In contrast to yesterday's sunshine, today saw the heavens open as the players battled heavy rain in the early part of the day. It was less than ideal for McIlroy, who started his round just before 8am on -2, three shots behind overnight leader Kevin Kisner.

The Northern Irishman produced a solid front nine, making one birdie and eight pars, although he will be disappointed that he didn't convert a few more birdie opportunities.

The back nine was more mixed, with McIlroy converting three birdie chances but also carding two bogeys to finish with another two-under-par round, leaving him in a strong position on -4 entering the weekend.

American Zach Johnson, who won the Open Championship at St Andrew's in 2016, is the current clubhouse leader on -6 after a stellar four-under-par second round.

"In these conditions I would have taken that score going out," said 2014 champion McIlroy.

"It wasn't that bad but was damp enough and cold enough for the game plan I wanted to adopt in hitting driver I just couldn't do it.

"It was a lot more conservative but ended up being the same score.

"There is still a long way to go but I'm in a great position going into the third day.

"I am happy to be in with a shout."

American Ryan Moore, who shot a three-under 68 in round one to sit two off the lead set by compatriot Kevin Kisner, was one of the early starters but he could not improve his score at his opening two holes.

The 2016 champion Henrik Stenson, starting the day one under, and England's Tommy Fleetwood, the course record holder, both parred the first.

Moore birdied the third to move within one of the lead but three-time major winner Rory McIlroy missed a 15-foot birdie putt at the first and escaped with a par after twice finding rough at the second.

Unlike Thursday the Northern Irishman chose not to go for the green at the short par-four third but still overshot the putting surface with his approach

McIlroy missed the fairway again at the next but recovered to 25 feet only to roll the birdie attempt past the hole for a fourth successive par to remain two under.

Fleetwood, however, made his move with back-to-back birdies at four and five to join McIlroy on two under, three behind Kisner who was one of the afternoon starters.

McIlroy finally carded his first birdie of the day at the seventh after hitting his approach to 12 feet to move within two of the lead.

He was joined on three under by playing partner Thorbjorn Olesen with his second birdie of the day at the same hole.

Three birdies in four holes from the third saw 2015 champion Zach Johnson climb into joint second on four under.

Moore, who turned in 35, had hacked out of the rough into the burn at the 10th and a double-bogey six dropped him to two under.

Francesco Molinari, who won his first PGA Tour title a fortnight ago, carded his second birdie of the day at the par-five sixth to get to three under and was joined by Fleetwood, whose four-under round was the joint best of the day.

McIlroy moved to within a shot of the lead with a 12-footer for birdie at the 10th and missed a good chance to go level with Kisner at the next.

Tiger Woods' decision to take driver, which he used just once on the par-five sixth yesterday, at the second proved to be the wrong one but it was almost more costly for spectators.

Having carved a shot into a bank of rough he attempted a raking hook with the ball above his feet at almost waist height but it came out low and hard and skirted inches away from the packed gallery he had only just asked to move back a couple of yards.

A bogey - it was 10 holes before he dropped a shot in his first round - saw him fall to one over.

McIlroy briefly assumed a share of the lead after hitting it close at the par-three next and adding another birdie at the par-five 14th despite his drive finding a fairway bunker.

But he was in the rough off the next tee and that cost him a shot as he dropped back alongside Fleetwood and Zach Johnson in the group at four under.

However, among that number three players - South African duo Erik van Rooyen and Zander Lombard and American Tony Finau - had yet to start their rounds.

Johnson birdied the par-five 14th to share the lead on five under and he was joined there as Fleetwood posted his sixth birdie of the day at the last for a best-of-the-week round of 65.

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