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Rory McIlroy keeps hope alive after second-round 70 at The Open

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Rory McIlroy keeps hope alive after second-round 70 at The Open

    Written by Alistair Cameron

    HOYLAKE, England – The last time Royal Liverpool Golf Club played host to The Open Championship, Rory McIlroy went wire-to-wire to be crowned Champion Golfer of the Year. Sitting nine shots back after two rounds in the 2023 edition, the Northern Irishman will have to find a different way to get his hands on the claret jug this year.

    Back in 2014, McIlroy had matched Tiger Woods’ Open record at the halfway point for lowest 36-hole total, 132. This year, its second-round leader Brian Harman who joins that elusive club at 10-under 132 after carding rounds of 71-65.

    But McIlroy isn’t giving up hope.

    After an opening round of even-par 71, the FedExCup champion made it to red figures for the tournament on Friday after holing an 8-foot birdie putt at the last to get to 1-under par. The gap may be large in relation to the leader, but McIlroy is confident in his perspective.

    “I might be nine back, but I don't think there's going to be a ton of players between me and the lead going into the weekend,” McIlroy said after his round. “Right now, it's not quite out of my hands, but at the same time, I think if I can get to 3-, 4-, 5-under par tomorrow going into Sunday, I'll have a really good chance.”

    As last week’s Genesis Scottish Open winner, McIlroy entered the week as one of the favorites with an opportunity to return to world No. 1 with another victory. The 34-year-old admitted he didn’t really get it going in the first round, but he started Round 2 in the opposite fashion. McIlroy blistered a drive into the wind at the first hole, followed by an approach to 11 feet and a birdie putt that found the bottom of the cup.

    Another birdie at the par-5 fifth followed, but opportunities seem to fall by the wayside as the round progressed.

    “I've missed a couple of chances on the greens,” McIlroy added. “The wind got me today. It's hard sometimes (to decide) whether to play the wind or not to play the wind.”

    Making the turn in 33 and at 2-under for the tournament, McIlroy would rue a bogey at 11, a short miss for a bounce-back birdie at 12 and an uncharacteristic bogey at the par-5 15th. Finding a pot bunker off the tee would ultimately leave him with a 5-foot putt for par, which slipped by the hole.

    He made up for the mistakes at the last. Back at the scene where the night prior he made a clutch up-and-down from the greenside bunker at 18, McIlroy would show short game touch once again, getting up-and-down this time from the fescue short left of the green.

    “Yeah, important. Certainly important to me,” McIlroy said of his birdie to finish. “I got off to a great start. Was a couple under through nine, and then gave those shots away on two of the sort of easier holes on the course, 11 and 15. But it was nice to at least get one of them back on 18 there.”

    The tale of the tape can be found on the greens. Although McIlroy is gaining stokes on the putting surface compared to the field (+0.52, Strokes Gained: Putting), he’s almost eight shots off leader Harman (+8.39, SG Putting). Though McIlroy believes if he continues to play the way is currently, the putts will drop, and overall, the 24-time TOUR winner says he’s pleased with his position.

    “We'll see what the weekend holds,” he said. “But after two days I'm actually pretty happy with my two days' work.”

    If McIlroy wants to enjoy the same walk as 2014, he’ll have to find something special on the weekend. But with green conditions like nine years ago, he has good memories to rely on.

    Alistair is a senior staff member at the PGA TOUR. Born and raised in England, he played golf professionally on the European Alps Tour before joining the PGA TOUR.

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