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Rory McIlroy thrilled to be in with Open shout after stunning round

 

By Phil Casey

An "ecstatic" Rory McIlroy has a fifth Major triumph in his sights after one of his best rounds ever in the Open Championship kept him firmly in contention at a wet and windy Royal Birkdale.

The Holywood ace fired an impressive two-under par 68 in tough conditions to lie one-under at the halfway stage and five shots adrift of leader Jordan Spieth. Birdies on the first, third and sixth helped McIlroy reach the turn in 31, eight shots fewer than on Thursday, and although he dropped shots on the 13th and 15th, a birdie on the 17th helped the 28-year-old remain in the hunt for the Claret Jug he won in 2014.

"That's right up there," said McIlroy, who equalled the lowest score in Major history with an opening 63 at St Andrews in 2010 and opened with consecutive 66s on his way to victory at Hoylake in 2014.

"It's really tough out there. I was lucky enough to get off to that great start but conditions got a little worse on the back nine. This south-east wind is the toughest on this course and I made a couple of bogeys, but (was) really pleased to birdie 17. To be in after two days and be under par for this Championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that.

"I thought if I could keep it under par for the Championship I am right there for the weekend. I believed in myself from the first tee shot, hit it within 60 yards of the green and went from there. I just wanted to continue with that good feeling from the last few holes (on Thursday) and went out with that positivity and just need to keep that going for the next two days."

Matt Kuchar lies in second spot, two shots behind Spieth, while Ian Poulter is on three-under par. Darren Clarke added a 73 to his first-round 75, but it wasn't enough to make the cut.

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