Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Catch me if you can says Rory after a Fantastic Friday

This is magical McIlroy in major-winning form

In the mood: there was little sign of ‘Freaky Friday’ as Rory burned up the Hoylake course again
In the mood: there was little sign of ‘Freaky Friday’ as Rory burned up the Hoylake course again

Rory McIlroy brilliantly dismissed all that guff about a Friday Hoodoo with a majestic second successive round of 66 at Hoylake.

An albatross was supposed to hang around McIlroy's neck after a series of stunning second round reverses on Tour since April's Masters.

The only exotic bird on show at Royal Liverpool during yesterday's Open Championship second round, however, was a cheeky cock pheasant that strutted across McIlroy's path but, thankfully, not the line of his putt on the eighth green.

Unless, of course, you count the seven birdies landed by the 25-year-old Holywood native, which propelled him to 12-under, precisely the same tally Tiger Woods enjoyed through 36 holes here in 2006 as he completed back-to-back victories at the British Open.

Crucially, McIlroy is four ahead of his nearest challenger, American Dustin Johnson, and has a further two-stroke cushion to the rest as he heads into the weekend.

With thunderstorms expected to slam into the Wirral Peninsula this morning, unprecedented measures have been taken by the R&A to give the third round every possible chance of conclusion today.

For the first time at golf's oldest Major, there will be a two-tee start, with the field scheduled to go out in threeballs from 9.00am. This should reduce the time needed to complete the round from 10.5 hours to seven.

"I feel like I'm ready for whatever conditions come," said McIlroy with calm assurance, his confidence in his ability to secure the third leg of a career Grand Slam reinforced by previous record shattering victories at the US Open in 2011 and the US PGA in 2012.

"I've practiced for the last few weeks in links-type conditions and I've worked on the shots I might need in windy or wet conditions.

"In a way, having that four-shot lead isn't a bad thing because it makes it tougher for the guys to catch you.

"Whatever the weather throws at us, I won't mind. I'll just try and play another solid round of golf."

McIlroy was delighted to dismiss any further mention of 'Freaky Fridays.' "It's nice to go out and shoot a good one today, so I don't have to be asked about it again," he said, adding with a smile: "Until I have a good round on Thursday at Firestone next month and people bring it up again.

"I suppose it's understandable," McIlroy added. "My second rounds this year have been terrible and there isn't really any explanation. Hopefully, I put it to bed today.

"To be honest, I didn't have it in my head at all going out today.

"I just wanted to play another solid round, stick to my game plan and doing what I do well, which is take advantage of the par fives and maybe some of the other holes playing downwind. That's all I was thinking about," he insisted.

Even after making an unlucky and untidy first bogey of his championship at the opening hole yesterday?

McIlroy's been hitting his driver massive distances and almost unerringly straight at Hoylake this week, but his tee shot at one courted with the left rough before rebounding across the fairway into wispy grass on the right.

From there he got a flyer and, after going through the green, McIlroy failed to get up and down to save par.

Yet he calmly dismissed any lingering doubts in the packed galleries with facile back-to-back birdies at five and six, then followed at eight by rolling home a seven-foot putt for another.

Four more birdies on the way home, including two at the closing holes, placed him firmly in command, and fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke said: "36 holes is a long way to go on links, but it's great to see Rory doing what he's doing."

Asked if the wind might bother McIlroy, the 2011 Open champion went on: "He's fine. When he's playing like that he'll be a tough guy to catch."

Clarke eased through to the weekend on even par after back-to-back rounds of 72.

Graeme McDowell was one stroke better after the sturdy Portrush man surged powerfully to a second-round 69 with four birdies in a flawless back nine that suggests he could make an impact in rough weather this weekend.

Woods scraped through the cut on two-over after a 77, his worst round in 12 years at the Open, but, sadly, Ireland's three-time Major champion Padraig Harrington missed by six on eight-over after failing to register a solitary birdie in his 78.

Heartbroken Michael Hoey was forced yesterday to retire at Hoylake with a deep hole in the sole of his left foot.

"I've had a big callus for months and when I took the tape off (on Thursday) night, the whole thing came with it," explained the crestfallen Ulsterman. "I've torn a lot of skin off. It's deep and it's very sore.

"I couldn't really swing the club properly because of it," added Hoey, who was three-over par for his round and six-over for the championship when he walked off the course after seven holes of his second round.

Ernie Els went home last night with painful memories – though he didn't suffer any injury. Rather he inflicted it when he hit an elderly man full in the face with his ball after driving it into spectators standing to the left of the first fairway on Thursday.

The South African felt such remorse and was so distracted after seeing the dazed man's bloodied face, he three-putted from inside 18 inches as he made seven at that hole, followed by four bogeys in the next six.

After following up his opening 79 with a 73 yesterday, Els missed the cut by a street on eight-over.

His playing companion over the first two days, defending champion Phil Mickelson, offered a few words of consolation to Els on the final green yesterday.

He said: "We've been friends for decades and we were saying let's get going – we're not getting what we want out, but we're not far off."

Mickelson eased through to the weekend on even-par after a two-under 70 yesterday wiped out his 74 on Thursday.

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