Rory McIlroy takes clubhouse lead and reveals key to stunning form
World No 1 admits professional and personal heartache has helped him focus on golf
McIlroy had not looked in top form in the early stages of his round, pushing his opening drive into the crowd on the par-five 10th and failing to convert a birdie putt from 10 feet, although a par was at least two shots better than he managed there on Thursday after hooking his second shot out of bounds.
Another birdie chance went begging on the 11th and the world number one then bogeyed the 12th, pulling his drive into the gallery and failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
McIlroy, who is looking to become the first player since Pádraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back Majors, got back on track with birdies at the 13th and 15th and missed from six feet for another on the 16th after a towering four-iron approach from 224 yards.
But he made amends by holing from 30 feet for an eagle on the 18th and could have had another on the seventh, missing from eight feet after a stunning three-wood approach. As if to emphasise a changing of the guard, his closing birdie on the ninth came just as former world number one Tiger Woods began his second round on three over par.
“Do I expect to win? No. But do I expect to do the things that I know I can do and control? Yes. And I know that if I do those well, there’s a good chance that I’ll win,” he added.
As the final groups headed out onto the course, McIlroy held a two-shot clubhouse lead over American Ryan Palmer, who had added a 70 to his opening 65. Palmer was in the first group out at 7:30am but was still trying to complete the opening hole when play was suspended in torrential rain.
Shane Lowry played alongside Palmer and play resumed after a delay of 45 minutes, although preferred lies could not be used as they were surprisingly not in force when the round got under way.
Lowry opened with two bogeys after play resumed and another would come at the seventh as he slipped back to level par.
A first birdie of the day got him back under par, but two bogeys and one birdie coming home saw the Offaly golfer sign for a three-over 74 and level par for the tournament.
Darren Clarke made light of the poor conditions with a two-under 69 in his second round after an opening round of 79. At six over he will miss the cut, which looks set to fall at level or one over.
Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell are among the later starters and will need to shoot in the 60s to make the weekend.