Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

McIlroy nicely poised

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy had mentor Darren Clarke firmly in his sights after grinding out a second round of 69 in the 140th Open Championship at Royal St George's.

That was surprisingly enough to leave the US Open champion just four shots off the lead shared by Clarke and American Lucas Glover, with US PGA champion Martin Kaymer and overnight joint leader Thomas Bjorn among a four-strong group a shot behind.

Asked about 42-year-old Clarke's performance, some 14 years after he finished second at Troon, McIlroy said: "It's brilliant. This sort of golf really suits his game. He's grown up on links and he likes to play different shots."

He added: "It's the sort of week where you've got to just manage your game very well and he's good at doing that, hitting different shots and changing the trajectory. It's good to see him up there. He's doing a bit better than me at the moment but I'm planning on changing that."

McIlroy is aiming to become the youngest Open champion since 1893 and has battled back well after starting his first round by dropping two shots in the first three holes.

It took until the seventh hole today for the 22-year-old to get under par for the tournament, but each brace of birdies was followed by a drop shot which halted his momentum.

"It was a grind," McIlroy admitted. "Even though it was sunny and it looked nice out there, it was very tricky. The course is playing a lot firmer, a lot of cross winds, and to shoot something in the 60s today I'm very pleased with.

"It would have been nicer to be a couple better, but I'll take that going into the weekend. I'm very happy with my position and within striking distance of the leaders.

"It's the most open Open I've seen in a long time. I think it'll be exciting to be a part of and it'll be exciting to watch over the next two days. I'm very happy with my position going into the weekend. I'm happy with where I'm at. If I get off to a decent start tomorrow I'm right in it."

And as for the prospect of partnering Clarke in the final group on Sunday, McIlroy added: "I'd know what to say to him to put him off, I think!"