Rory vows to keep fighting
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy survived a mid-round wobble, then vowed to chase down Phil Mickelson for Open glory.

The American has a one stroke lead over Henrik Stenson on 10 under par after adding a 69 to his opening 63 at Royal Troon.

McIlroy is eight behind but despite dropping four shots in a five-hole stretch as wind and rain lashed the afternoon starters, he chiseled out a level par 71 that might have been an 80 for the fairweather McIlroy of a few years ago.

“I've made it a goal of mine to play better in bad conditions, and I feel like I've gotten a little bit better at it,” McIlroy said. “And that round out there today was probably one of the better rounds I've played in bad conditions.”

Refusing to surrender, McIlroy addd: “I feel like I've played very well and that gives me optimism going into the weekend. 

“I played the front nine well especially so if I can get off to a similar start tomorrow and get a little closer to the leaders, play the back nine a little better, you never know.

“Depending on what direction it comes from, again, you've seen guys shoot four, five, six-under par on the front nine. 

“I feel like it's possible. There are 36 holes to go. Obviously the guys at the top of the leaderboard are playing very well. 

“I had a chance to watch Phil yesterday afternoon and this morning, and it's the best I've seen him play in a long, long time. 

“His swing's good. He's got his ball flight under control. He seems like he's putting well. 

“And obviously Henrik and the guys that are up there as well, they're going to be tough to beat.

“But I've given people head starts before and been able to win, and I'm just going to try to draw on those memories.”

The four-time major winner started brilliantly and birdies at the second, sixth and seventh leaving him just five off the pace.

But as the wind got up and the rain fell harder, he missed two par putts inside three feet at the ninth and 10th, then bogeyed the 12th and 13th in the middle of a vicious squall.

A birdie four from 18 feet at the 16th gave him a new lease of life and he was able to par the last two holes in howling winds and slanting rain to end the day tied for 15th.

If McIlroy was upbeat, Pádraig Harrington reckons he needs a Phil Mickelson style 63 to have any chance of contending for his third Open title.

As Shane Lowry missed the cut by three and insisted he played “more like Hulk Hogan than Ben Hogan,” Harrington’s battling 72 left him 10 shots behind.

“A 62? That would be a story alright,” Harrington said after starting and finishing with bogeys to finish his day inside the top 30 on level par .

“The problem is the 10 shots,” Harrington said of the deficit with Mickelson. “I am not six hours earlier in the tee time that Phil. 

“If i was first out you might get the weather beautiful and go out there and shoot 64, 63 and then they could get this weather. 

“Unfortunately I am not that far behind in terms of time. If I play well I might catch up two or three shots. But it is hard to see me catching up six, seven or eight shots.”

Harrington is not ruling out a weekend run but in general, he’s more optimistic about his chances of winning the US PGA or Olympic golf.

He said: “I came in with a plan for summer. I came in with three big tournaments for me, I  just want to approach them the right way. 

“If I do that I will get a chance hopefully of winning one of the three.

Darren Clarke had four three-putts, then almost holed his approach to the 18th, tapping in from two inches for a 72 to make the cut with two shots to spare on two over

“I wanted to play well this weekend, but it will be interesting to see how some of the Ryder Cup contenders get on,” Clarke said, referring to the likes of Stenson, who shot a 65 to get to nine under.

“My Ryder Cup duties are more important than my own golf right now. 

Shane Lowry finished on seven over after a level par 71 that was one of the best rounds of the afternoon.

Playing in a tee-shirt, he birdied the first and second and was within a shot of the cut mark with six holes to go before the weather turned nasty and he bogeyed the 13th and the par-five 16th to miss out by three shots.

Joking, he said: “I was like Hulk Hogan yesterday and Ben Hogan today.”

He added: “I gave it a go. I birdied the first two and I got off to a good start and hit some really good shots early on.

“I feel just for the lads that are making the cut on our side that are five shots behind.

“I just got in my own way around the course yesterday. I was expecting quite a lot coming in here. I was hitting poor shots and mentally I was just not there.

“With the conditions like they were today, I just had to go out and play golf. I said to (my coach) Neil before, I'm just going to go play like I'm with the lads at home.

“Hopefully there will be some nice weather over in New Jersey in a couple of weeks.”

As for last year’s hero Paul Dunne, he added a 78 to his 77 to miss out on 13 over.

The Greystones man could make the trip to the King’s Cup in Thailand in a fortnight or take six weeks to recharge his batteries before he plays again on the Czech Masters.

At 117th in the Race to Dubai, he needs a big cheque soon to take the pressure off and keep his tour card.