Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

McIlroy not worried by Friday form

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy is not worrying about what Friday will bring after shooting a six-under-par 66 at the 143rd Open Championship
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy is not worrying about what Friday will bring after shooting a six-under-par 66 at the 143rd Open Championship

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy insists he does not fear Fridays and has no worries about a repeat of the last time he led the Open Championship after day one.

Four years ago the two-time major winner shot the lowest first round in the tournament's long and illustrious history with a 63 at St Andrews in similar benign conditions to those at Royal Liverpool on Thursday.

He returned the next day and carded an 80 in atrocious weather which blew his challenge for the Claret Jug off course, although he still managed to recover to finish joint third.

At Hoylake he carded a blemish-free six-under 66 to lead by one from Italian Matteo Manassero but his recent travails on Fridays have led to something akin to a second-day syndrome with the 25-year-old struggling terribly.

In the current calendar year he is 50 under par for his first rounds and nine over for his second.

With a change in the weather expected on Friday - although nothing as severe as what blew through the Old Course four years ago - there could be some trepidation when McIlroy steps onto the first tee at 2.27pm but he is confident he can see past that.

"That first morning in St Andrews was similar in terms of the conditions, it was very scoreable," said the Northern Irishman, who collapsed in the final round of the 2011 Masters after an opening 65 only to bounce back two months later with a wire-to-wire win at the US Open.

"I actually think this is a very similar type of golf course and the game plan is actually quite similar in some ways.

"Any time you shoot 66 at the Open Championship, you're going to be pleased: it's another great start and I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.

"Whenever I go out and play on Thursdays there's not really many expectations.

"You're going out there and you're trying to find a rhythm and you're just trying to play your way into the round.

"When you go back out on Friday after a good score you know what you can do, so you're going out with some expectations compared to Thursday.

"I think I've just got to approach it trying to hit solid shots the first few holes and play my way into the round, just like I did today.

"I just have to take it one hole at a time, one shot at a time - I know everyone says it and you've heard it a million times, but it's true."

McIlroy insists he has learned not to watch leaderboards so early in a tournament in order to help him not chase a score when it is not necessary.

"I'll just be conscious of myself but I'll try not to think about where I am on the leaderboard or what position I am in the tournament because it's irrelevant, it's only the second day.

"You might need to know on the back nine on Sunday but apart from that, you just go out and try to play your best.

"I think when I'm in a real good mindset I don't really look at leaderboards too much. Is it a change from the last few weeks? Yes.

"There's nothing really to it, it's just trying to put those expectations aside."

McIlroy is determined even a change in the weather from the sunny, calm conditions he enjoyed on Thursday will not affect him.

"I feel I'm well prepared this week for whatever the conditions," he added.

"I've practised in windy conditions the last few weeks. I've practised the shots that I might need for a bad day like tomorrow might be.

"Will that help in any way? It might do, because you're really just concentrating on one shot at a time when the weather is like that.

"It's not like I've shot good scores in first rounds and haven't backed them up before. I'm used to doing that. I just haven't done it recently.

"We'll see what tomorrow brings and what weather it is and try to handle it as best I can."

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