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Fired-up Rory McIlroy is relishing the chase

Rory's bid for second Open crown is blown off course but past comebacks will serve to provide inspiration

By Robert Jones

Published 16/07/2016

The hard way: Rory McIlroy fights his way out of a bunker during a difficult and testing second round at Royal Troon
The hard way: Rory McIlroy fights his way out of a bunker during a difficult and testing second round at Royal Troon

Rory McIlroy is still clinging to hopes of a second Open title, despite struggling in adverse weather at Royal Troon.

The World No.4 had a creditable level-par 71 but trails halfway leader Phil Mickelson by eight shots.

Mickelson played his second round in relatively calm conditions to post 10 under before the weather deteriorated on the west coast of Scotland.

"I feel like it's possible but I need a fast start," said McIlroy, now sitting on two under par for the tournament. "It depends on what the conditions are like. Depending on what direction the wind comes from, you've seen guys shoot six under on the front nine.

"But it's The Open Championship - some draws go your way, some draws don't."

McIlroy, 27, won The Open in 2014 but missed last year's tournament because of an ankle injury. He said: "The last Open I played, I got the good end of the draw and good things happened.

"I'm not going to let being on the wrong side of the draw ruin my week. I feel like I've played really well and that gives me optimism going into the weekend. It's the best I've seen Phil play in a long, long time. But I've given people head starts before and been able to win. I'll try to draw on those memories."

Four-time Major winner McIlroy's disposition was far brighter than the weather as he cited previous examples of comebacks, notably from being nine strokes adrift at Wells Fargo in 2010 and from seven down at Wentworth in 2014.

"The guys at the top of the leaderboard are playing very well and they're going to be tough to beat," the Holywood ace said. "But I've given people head starts before and been able to win, and I'm going to try to draw on those memories.

"So I've been able to turn deficits into wins. But this is a bit of a difference. It's The Open Championship in these conditions. So I'm just trying to stay as optimistic as I can."

A two-tee start was used for the first time in Open history in the third round at Hoylake in 2014 in anticipation of bad weather, which memorably arrived just as eventual winner McIlroy was giving his post-round press conference.

Asked if he would like to see the same system implemented full-time, McIlroy joked: "I was probably saying that to myself on the 13th hole. Everyone had the spell where it was brutal and for us it was on 13.

"I hit a drive that I thought was 20 yards left of the fairway and I got up there and it was in the middle of the fairway just because it went about 230 (yards).

"But it's one of the traditions of The Open and I respect that. The first group tees off at 6:30am and the last at 4:30pm and it's the only tournament where we do that.

"I used to hate playing in conditions like that but I have found a way to get myself round the course and be as positive as possible.

"No one enjoys it but there is some sort of challenge to it. I made it a goal of mine to play better in these conditions and that was one of the better ones."

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke briefly enjoyed playing again as he shot a second-round 72 to make the cut.

The 2011 champion's one-over-par effort took him to the same score for the tournament at the midway point at Royal Troon. But for the 47-year-old, participating is merely a distraction from preparations from this autumn's event at Hazeltine, with the clash against the United States never far from his mind.

The Ulsterman said: "My priority is the Ryder Cup, not my own golf, but this is the biggest and best tournament in the world and I am proud and privileged to be part of the field.

"I love links golf. As much as I am not playing or practising as much as I would like to, when I get back onto links I can manage my way around because I have grown up doing it and will be doing it for a long time. I want to play well this weekend.

"But it will be interesting to see how some of the Ryder Cup contenders get on. The Ryder Cup is still more important right now."

Graeme McDowell just made the cut on four over par.

Justin Rose, meanwhile, felt the "ridiculous" weather savaged his hopes of victory.

The former US Open champion saw the good work from his first-round 68 undone as he shot 77 on day two to slump to three over par, 13 off the lead.

After teeing off at 2.04pm, Rose was among the players affected by heavy rain and strong gusts of wind late afternoon.

He said: "It was ridiculous. You know when you see such a disparity between the draw and you see no name from this side of the draw popping up, it's just frustrating.

"Our group (him, Jordan Spieth and Shane Lowry) was bound to make the cut but (seeing) great players doing their best to make the cut tells you it was tough out there."

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