Rory McIlroy’s late-night range session at Mount Juliet on Thursday paid off as he bounced back with a much better second round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, but the Holywood man still trails Australia’s Lucas Herbert by eight shots going into the weekend in Co Kilkenny.
The World No.10 was spotted doing some extensive practice after a level-par 72 in his first round and it was enough to help him to a five-under 67 in his second round to leave him tied-34th going into the weekend.
McIlroy was bogey-free yesterday and was four under after eight holes of his opening nine and, although he slowed on the back nine by only adding one more birdie, it was a far better showing than Thursday’s display.
“I figured a couple of things out, and to play the first nine holes in four under was nice and, you know, being five under through 10, I thought I was on course for something a bit lower than five under in the end,” conceded McIlroy.
“But I’ll take it. It was definitely a big improvement on yesterday. It could have been a little better as I played the two par-fives at even par on the front nine. I missed a couple of chances, too. But it was better.”
Eight behind Herbert with two rounds to go, it will take a massive weekend for McIlroy to pull himself up into genuine contention for his second Irish Open title and, while the 32-year-old himself acknowledges that, he’s not ruling out a run entirely.
“I don’t feel like I’m right in contention right now. There’s a lot of people between me and the lead, so I need to go out there (today) and shoot something probably a little better than I did (yesterday) to give myself a real chance on Sunday,” he added.
It was a good day all round for Northern Ireland golfers as both Graeme McDowell and Cormac Sharvin also shot five-under 67s to make the cut as well.
Ardglass man Sharvin had five birdies and an eagle to thank for pulling him above the cut mark at four under for the week, while McDowell, who finished birdie-birdie in his first round, was bogey-free in round two to make it on the number at three under.
“One of the main problems the last 12 months is the amount of cuts that I’ve missed, which has just killed that ability to create confidence. Because even 50th spot going out on a Sunday and shooting 65, you take something into the following week,” said McDowell, who ended a run of three straight missed cuts.
“So making the weekend here, having the ability to be able to create a little bit of momentum as I move into a huge week next week (at the Scottish Open), not ruling out the chance of shooting something low (today) and having a chance here on Sunday.
“But, like I say, it’s key for me to have four rounds.”
Jonathan Caldwell shot a three-under 68 but missed out on a Saturday tee time at one over overall, while Simon Thornton finished nine over after a 76.
Open champion Shane Lowry is the leading Irishman alongside McIlroy at five under, which is also the same score Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood is on.
Meanwhile, leader Herbert admitted he didn’t have his best game on day two but that he was delighted to give himself a two-shot cushion over Andy Sullivan and Grant Forrest at 13 under going into the weekend.
“It was a little frustrating but also felt like I did pretty well to scrap 67 out of that. I holed some really nice putts and missed some that I thought had a good chance to make,” said Herbert.
“For a round that hopefully is not one of my better ones of the week, I felt like I did really well to get a lot out of it and put myself into a very good position.”