Rory McIlroy right back in the thick of things

McIlroy plays the conditions beautifully at Birkdale to finish on one-under

 Rory McIlroy  chips onto the 11th green during the second round of the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale. Photograph:  Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy chips onto the 11th green during the second round of the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

 

Crisis, what crisis? Rory McIlroy reignited his challenge for another Claret Jug with a second round 68 for a midway total of one-under-par 139 that saw him shoot up the leaderboard and into the thick of the action at Royal Birkdale.

As players struggled to combat the windy conditions, McIlroy - at times changing his strategic game plan to include the driver rather than the 1-iron he’d intended to use off the tees pre-championship - used the elements to his advantage, and also showed greater confidence with the putter than has been the case in recent weeks.

McIlroy had seemed out of all contention when he covered the first six holes of his opening round on Thursday in five-over. But he managed to turn that around to sign for an opening 71 and maintained that momentum into his second round 68 to make a significant move.

“Eight shots better?” enquired McIlroy of how much better he had played those opening six holes. He was right. “I hit some quality shots out there. I saw a lot of better iron shots. I saw some really good putts going in. So, yeah, there was a lot of quality out there and I was happy to see that. I just have to try to keep that going for the next two days.”

He added: “I set myself a target of being in a better position today than I was yesterday. I finished the (first) round one-over. I wanted to be at least level-par or under-par if possible for the championship. And I’ve been able to achieve that goal that I set myself. They’re both huge rounds for very different reasons. But this was definitely the round that got me back into the championship.”

McIlroy was only three shots behind clubhouse leader Matt Kuchar, who followed his opening 65 with a 71 for a four-under-par 136.

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