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McIlroy masterclass banishes Friday demons

Alex Perry at Royal Liverpool
July 18, 2014 « Wenger fires warning to rivals | Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
Rory McIlroy said he found an "inner peace" during the second round of The Open © Getty Images
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Forget Freaky Friday. This was Formidable Friday.

Rory McIlroy went on an unstoppable birdie-fest at Royal Liverpool to take a huge chunk out of his cumulative nine-over par score for second-rounds this season.

A second successive Open Championship 66 sees McIlroy into the weekend at 12-under and nursing a four-shot lead from Dustin Johnson, who carded a round-of-the-day 65 in calm conditions throughout the afternoon.

Not that McIlroy is getting over excited.

The two-time major champion described it as "a solid round of golf" and that he is "looking forward to the weekend".

Modesty aside, McIlroy has everything to be excited about. When he is dialled in like this there is no one more exciting to watch in the game. Three birdies in his final four holes accented this. And it's at both ends of the shot-making spectrum. McIlroy showed unbelievable touch to leave himself a gimme at the par-3 15th, then boomed a 396-yard drive at the par-4 17th for the simplest of up-and-downs.

It was a performance akin to that of Martin Kaymer in the final round of the US Open earlier this year. This is my lead and you are not taking it away from me.

Tiger Woods scraped into the weekend with a birdie at 18, having triple-bogeyed 17 thanks to a wayward drive that flew out of bounds.

We might just be, finally, witnessing the changing of the guard.

McIlroy, of course, has been in this position before, having led the 2011 US Open - his maiden major championship triumph - by six headed into the weekend.

Bad weather sees Saturday restructure

  • For the first time in Open Championship history, there will be a two-tee start as organisers attempt to avoid the forecast heavy storms.
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"I'm very comfortable," he admitted. "I'm very comfortable doing what I'm doing right now.

"It's hard to describe. I don't know if I can describe it. I feel like I have an inner peace on the golf course.

"I think it's a combination of confidence and being mentally strong; mentally aware of everything.

"But I think it all comes down to if you're confident with your game and you're in control of your ball out there, it makes things a lot easier."

McIlroy will pair up with Johnson on Saturday, a player who continues to frustrate with his questionable mental game. While he remained bogey-free throughout, five straight pars from the 12th will leave the big-hitting American kicking himself - particularly birdie putts falling short and a five-footer at 16 drifting wide.

At seven-under, Johnson leads a cluster of players by one, with Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Francesco Molinari and Ryan Moore, as well as South Africa's major champion Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schartzel.

Moore was the only player in the top 10 who was at level par for the Championship at any point during the day thanks to bogeys at two and seven. But a run of six birdies in 11 holes from the eighth.

'I'm still in this!'

Phil Mickelson has it all to do to defend his title © Getty Images
  • Phil Mickelson carded a two-under 70 on a blustery day at Royal Liverpool to get back to even par for the Open Championship before declaring "I am absolutely still in this tournament".
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George Coetzee, the only player up there who played in the Thursday afternoon-Friday morning draw, is joined in a tie for ninth at five-under with Jim Furyk.

But it is once again a disappointing showing at a major for Englishmen Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, who carded rounds of 76 and 74 respectively to miss the cut by one.

Meanwhile, there will be no silver medal winner this year, as highest-placed amateur, England's Ashley Chesters, also recorded an MC.

Elsewhere, five-time champion Tom Watson's two-over total sees him break his own 2012 record as the oldest player to make the cut in the championship - and is likely to play with Woods on Saturday.

The 64-year-old American revealed he used a conservative approach - particularly at the par-5s.

"I played old man's golf," he said. "There was no sense at all in trying to get on the green in two. I hit it to the right, hit it to the left and then hit it on the green before two-putting.

But for those thinking the Ryder Cup captain is here to run the rule over possible players for Gleneagles in September - including Woods - they would be much mistaken.

"I came over here with a purpose to play my best golf and play at the weekend," he added. "Let's see what happens at the weekend, let's see if the old guy can maybe get it rolling a little bit."

Follow Alex Perry on Twitter from Royal Liverpool at @AlexPerryESPN

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