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21st Jul 2018

Rory McIlroy makes ballsy claim after putting himself into Open contention

That's the bloody spirit

Patrick McCarry

That’s the bloody spirit

69. 69.

That’ll do, for a start.

Rory McIlroy briefly had the joint lead in The Open but, for the second round running, the finishing stretch at Carnoustie saw him grudgingly give shots back that he had fought so hard to earn.

The 18th on Thursday and the 15th on Friday. They are the two holes that will nag at the Holywood native but, overall, he should be very content with his solid start to the third Major of the year.

McIlroy spoke almost as well as he played in trying conditions at the Scottish course and he has served notice to the field that he is hunting his fifth Major.

Following his -2 round, which put him at -4 and two off the American duo of Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, McIlroy was asked about his battling, scrambling qualities. He replied:

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging and I’m going to go down giving it my best. I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It took some of that scrapping from the 29-year-old to avoid a stinker of a start. Heading out early, and dealing with cross-winds, the world number eight found himself in as rotten position at the Par 4 second hole.

He missed the green with his approach but his recovery game was dialled in and he saved par in style.

It was all pars and a solitary birdie on the front nine but the journey home was riveting. A birdie at 10 was handed back at 12 before further shots picked up at 13 and 14 saw him get to -5.

A bogey five on 15 brought him back to reality and he went close with a couple of putts but could not get back to -5. His two-round total of 138 was looking good until, for an hour at least, the winds died down at Carnoustie at Kisner sprinted out to -8.

A leader after the first round, Kisner handed a couple of shots back to finish alongside Johnson on -6.

Round of the day was England’s Tommy Fleetwood as his six-under score of 65 moved him to within one of the lead. McIlroy will tee off on Saturday afternoon, not too long before the leaders set off, and he made a confident claim heading into the weekend:

“I don’t want to say [it has been] easy, but it has felt comfortable.

“If I can get on a run or off to a fast start on one of the next two days, I don’t see a ridiculously low score out there but I do see something like what Tommy shot out there today – a 66 or a 65. I think I’m capable of that, yeah.”

A 65, if possible, would get McIlroy to -10 going into the final round. That is the dream scenario but if he can stay close to the top and give himself a chance on Sunday, he will ask for no more.

Consider this, too, as the Northern Irishman heads into what will be a pivotal ‘Moving Day’:

Good omens after an equally good start.