Rory McIlroy has been tipped to 'go low' and challenge over the weekend after making it safely inside the cut line at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The former world number one carded a much-improved five under par 67 on day two to add to his level par opening round and make it through to the final two rounds at Mount Juliet.
Five shots behind leader Dale Whitnell after Friday’s morning starters, McIlroy put himself back in with a chance of claiming his second Irish Open title and, having watched his round, Paul McGinley said he wouldn't be surprised to see McIlroy mount a real bid for the trophy.
"The first objective was to make the cut," the former Ryder Cup captain said on Sky Sports. "He was a long way behind the cut line (after round one). His first nine was superb. The par fives were something of a disappointment but it's job done, back on the fringes of contention. He's going to have to go low over the weekend but we know he's well capable of that.
"Everything went up a level today, particularly with the putter. Even the putts he missed were burning the edge of the cup. He's in good shape. There's a calmness because he feels he's on the right track. He's got a renewed energy from the fresh ideas with (new coach) Pete Cowen and working with (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella in the background.
"All in all, it's a good day's work. We're certainly happy to have him around for the weekend. It's a building block towards The Open Championship. It's all a progression and more work and confidence under the belt. It's a journey."
Starting on the 10th, McIlroy was out in 32 and four under for the day at the turn but a further birdie at his 10th hole was to be his last of a bogey-free round as chances at two par fives, one notably with a three-putt, slipped by as well as a makeable birdie attempt at the last.
"I got off to a better start and once you make a couple of birdies early, you start to feel like you can make a few more," said a more content McIlroy after his second round.
"The greens were much better this morning than yesterday afternoon as well so it felt a little easier to hole putts.
"That's really what I did. Everything was just a little better today. It could have been a little better than it was, playing the two par fives in even par on the front nine. I missed a couple of chances but it was better.
“I thought if I had got to seven (under par) it would have been a good effort and that was sort of my goal over those last few holes. It didn't quite happen.
“I need to go out and play as well or a bit better tomorrow to give myself a real chance, to at least get into double digits under par and give myself a chance.
“There's a bit of weather coming in as well so we will see how that goes. I don't think I'm right back into contention but I am pretty close.”
Since McIlroy started working with coach Cowen, a win at the Wells Fargo Championship hailed something of a false dawn ahead of the PGA Championship, where he could only finish in a tie for 49th, before his US Open challenge faltered on the final day.
However, he insists he is trending in the right direction with the year's third major - The Open Championship - two weeks away.
"My iron play is much better," he said. "I'm hitting it pin high more. I'm hitting it with the right loft, the flight has come down. My wedges are better for the most part.
"It's just consistency, being able to do the same thing over and over again and I feel like we're on the right track and creating the right pattern to be able to do that."
Graeme McDowell, meanwhile, faces a nervous wait to discover whether or not he has made the cut, his own blemish-free five under par 67 taking him to -3 for the week and right on the mark after the morning starters.
"I made a promise to myself this week that no matter the way my game has been recently that I was going to enjoy my walk round here but it was nice to make a few birdies this morning," he told Sky Sports during his round.
"You have to drive the ball incredibly well here because the rough is thick enough to be an issue. There are a lot of angles off these fairways and you really have to be accurate off the tee."