Shane Lowry admitted his legs were shaking when he began quest for Open glory but he’s determined to roll with the punches and give it a rattle in his bid for the Claret Jug at a rocking Royal Portrush.
The Offaly man shot a second successive, four-under par 67 to thrill the massive 44,000 strong gallery packed with Irish supporters.
And while he does not know if another two 67s will be good enough as he heads into the third round tied with JB Holmes on eight-under par, one clear of Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood, he insists that his US Open near miss at Oakmont in 2016 will stand to him.
He said: “Oakmont was so long ago and I was a lot younger. I feel like if I get the opportunity this week I'll be better.
”It definitely won't affect me what happened in Oakmont. Obviously I've got over that. It took me a while to get over it but I got over it.”
If he continues to play as he’s played for the first two days, Lowry will take some stopping.
He’s in a flow, seeing his shots and flying in every department of his game.
He got off to a lightning start too, rattling in birdies from eight feet, three feet and eight feet at the third three holes before almost chipping in for an eagle at the drivable fifth.
After another near miss at the sixth, he rifled a seven iron to three feet at the eighth, then made a long bomb for birdie at the 10th to go two shots clear on 10-under.
He was roared onto every tee and every green by the crowd and while he stumbled coming home with a three-putt bogey at the 14th and another dropped shot at the last after a heavy approach, he also made some great saves.
Bunkered at the 15th, he got up and down brilliantly, then chipped and putted for pars at the 16th and 17th.
At the penultimate hole, he was put off by the noise from the giant TV screen in the tented village nearby and carved hit tee shot right on the spectator pathway.
“I could hear Jay Townsend commenting on my shot,” Lowry said with a grin. “Just on my backswing he said, ‘He's got 295 to the top of the hill'. Yeah, that put me off. But I got lucky, I got a great break and managed to make par.”
While he looks cool and calm, he admitted he wasn’t quite as cool as he appeared.
“No, couldn't be any further from the truth,” he joked. “I was shaking on the first tee yesterday morning, that's how nervous I was before I played this tournament.
“After I hit the ball I said to my caddie I've never been that nervous about a tee shot. I don't know why. I just was.
“I've got my wife and I've got a two-year-old kid that will keep me pretty occupied over the next 16 or 18 hours before I tee off tomorrow. Yeah, like [my daughter] she doesn't care what time I'm teeing off, I'll still be awake at 7:00 in the morning."
He loved every moment of his second round and can’t wait to experience that crowd noise again.
“I had a great time today,” he said. “It was just unbelievable. It was one of those days when I found myself pinching myself. I can’t explain how good the crowds were. It was a day that I will remember.
“From the first hole today, walking onto every green and every tee box, walking down 18, it was unbelievable. I am very happy with my two days work.
“When you birdie the first three holes, it was great, especially when you know that the rain is coming in. I knew I needed to get off to a fast start and that’s what I did.
“I am playing well and I feel like my game is where I want it to be. I am in a great position going into the weekend of an Open Championship.
“There are two long days of golf left and it is not going to be easy. I am going to be under pressure and I am going to be feeling it and there are times when I am going to be out of position. But I am just going to have to take it on the chin.
“I have done a great job this year of just playing one round at a time, trying to shoot the best score I can. Look, I have shoot two 67s the first two rounds and I will stand on that first tee tomorrow afternoon and give it 100 percent.”
Asked if he planned to feed off the crowd, he said: “I think I just have to go out there and soak it all up, Next week I will be in Memphis and it will be one man and a dog following me.
“Out there tomorrow there are going to be thousands of people roaring me on. I am very excited about it, have a nice evening and morning tomorrow and hopefully go out and shoot a good score tomorrow afternoon.
“I holed that putt on 10, that long one on 10, it was just incredible. You can't but smile, you can't but laugh how it is.
“There's no point trying to shy away from it. It's an incredible feeling. Like I said yesterday, it's an incredible feeling getting applauded on every green, every tee box. I'm out there giving my best, trying to do my best for everyone, I suppose.”
He knows he has the game to win a major and while he doesn’t shy away from the question, he knows there is a long way to go.
“Look, I'm obviously going to be thinking about it tonight. There's no point in shying away from it,” he said. “I'm in a great position. But, my God, have we got a long way to go. There's two rounds of golf on this golf course against the best field in the world.
“The one thing I have to do is go out, I keep saying the same thing all the time, I've been doing great in year, I shot 67 today. I need to go out and shoot the best score I can tomorrow, and hopefully it leaves me in a decent position on into Sunday.”
As for his tentative finish, he shrugged it off as part of golf.
“I didn't feel any different, but, yeah, I hit some poor shots coming in,” he said. “But look, 18 holes around there, you're not going to hit 67 or 65 or whatever perfect shots. You're going to hit some bad shots. And I just happened to do it on the last few holes today.”
Asked if he believed he could become Open champion, he said: “Look, I might go out there and shoot two 67s the weekend. If J.B. Holmes shoots 67, 66 he beats me. That's the way it is. I've just got to go out and do my best, and if that is good enough at the end of the day, we'll have a good night Sunday.”
The Open, Royal Portrush (Dunluce, Par 71)
09.45 Molinari, Kokrak
09.55 McDowell, Watson
10.05 Hoffman, Turner
10.15 Asaji, Wilson
10.25 Inamori, Wallace
10.35 Bertasio, Lewis
10.45 Hadwin, Fox
11.00 Hwang, Hebert
11.10 Casey, Stanley
11.20 Pepperell, Redman
11.30 Streelman, Luiten
11.40 Sharma, Oosthuizen
11.50 Cink, Shinkwin
12.00 Furyk, Kisner
12.10 Wiesberger, Knox
12.20 Aphibarnrat, Korhonen
12.35 Garcia, Grace
12.45 Langasque, Park
12.55 Cantlay, Glover
13.05 Willett, Wise
13.15 Thomas, Macintyre
13.25 Fitzpatrick, Els
13.35 Olesen, Pieters
13.45 Sabbatini, An
13.55 Fowler, Schauffele
14.10 Stenson, Simpson
14.20 Noren, D. Johnson
14.30 Hatton, Kuchar
14.40 Rahm, Reed
14.50 Bjerregaard, Finau
14.00 Van Rooyen, Frittelli
14.10 Putnam, Spieth
14.20 Koepka, Rose
15.30 Harding, Smith,
15.40 Westwood, Fleetwood
15.50 Lowry, Holmes.