"I'm happy with where I'm at": McIlroy optimistic ahead of Masters weekend
Despite being seven shots off the lead, Rory McIlroy believes he's got a chance of making a third-round charge to get himself back into contention at The Masters.
The World No.3 signed off on a one-under par second round to leave him level par for the tournament, trailing the leading quintet of Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen.
It was an incredibly mixed round for McIlroy, who had an eagle, two birdies and three bogeys around Augusta, while he also had to contend with a 29-minute rain delay and the hype surrounding Tiger Woods in the group ahead.
However, a crucial par save at the 15th following a stunning 180-yard approach after being in the trees, and a 50-foot birdie putt on the 16th has him in the field for the weekend and confident he's not out of the running.
"It's been an up-and-down 36 holes to be sure but I'm happy to be where I'm at, especially getting up-and-down from 180 yards on the 15th to make par," said the 29-year-old.
"I was staring bogey in the face at 15 and thinking I had to play the last three in even par just to be safe, so to be here for the weekend and only be seven back, I'm actually pretty pleased.
"I don't feel far away. To shoot under par today, considering some of the breaks I got and some of the shots I hit, I'm right there."
After opening up Friday's round with a bogey at the second, hitting it into the patrons right of the green with a wayward second shot, McIlroy rallied well with a birdie following an excellent approach at the sixth and then an eagle on the par-five eighth with a fantastic shot to eight feet from the rough.
But his momentum was halted by that rain delay, coming while he was on the 11th, which he would go on to bogey and that was followed quickly by another dropped shot at the 13th.
However, the round ended on a considerable high note as McIlroy made a sublime par save on the par-five 15th after driving into a golf cart by the fairway and then finding trouble in the trees, the World No.3 firing an 180-yard shot to eight feet and draining the putt.
He followed that up with an excellent birdie at the 16th, draining a 50-foot putt for the birdie, which has him tied-36th going into Saturday.
When asked if he thought the eagle at the eighth would kickstart his round, McIlroy admitted: "A little bit. Eagle on eight was fantastic, that got me going, I hit a great putt on nine and I don't know how that didn't go in.
"Got up and down on 10, and then the hooter blew on 11 and that stopped any momentum, so I just had to try and pick it up again.
"Standing here, I'm much happier tonight than last night coming off the course. I'd just bogeyed the last two holes, compared to one-under for the last four to get myself in for the weekend, thinking in the middle of the 15th fairway thinking I might not even be here.
"So to get in seven shots back, I'm pretty happy."
With five players tied for the lead - the most in Masters history after two rounds - and a further four players just a shot behind, it's an incredibly tight leaderboard at Augusta, with it truly being anybody's tournament heading into the weekend.
With more bad weather forecast as well, McIlroy is hoping that could perhaps work in his favour, although he is confident that his own play can be enough to propel him back into contention rather than having to rely on the rain sweeping back in.
The Holywood man has been so close, with several putts just sliding by, and if he can put it all together for one round then he could find himself in the mix going into Sunday.
"It's so bunched. There's so many guys with a chance coming into the last few days, so if I can get off to a good start tomorrow, shoot 33 or 32 on that front nine, I'm right back in it," he insists.
Belfast Telegraph Digital