McIlroy keeps his cool and fights back after poor start

The Northern Irishman could not find his rhythm and was quickly off the pace early

The Northern Irishman could not find his rhythm and was quickly off the pace early

Officials help remove a signpost to allow Rory McIlroy to play on the 15th hole during yesterday's second round of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

Rory McIlroy heaped praise on his caddie JP Fitzgerald for reviving his Open challenge during a hard first round at Royal Birkdale.

The 44-year-old, coached by Sky Sports commentator Tim Barter, birdied two of the first four holes to leap into a share of the lead on five under in only his second Open appearance, his first coming at Birkdale 19 years ago, but he bogeyed the sixth and eighth and a double-bogey at the fearsome 13th sent him back to one under.

"If I can go out and play a good quality round of golf in the morning and try to get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par, under par, I'll still be around for the weekend".

Having missed the cut at last month's U.S. Open, McIlroy's form has been patchy at best and he struggled to find his groove in Southport.

Garcia is alongside Rickie Fowler and defending champion Henrik Stenson, who stumbled to a 73 after revealing he had lost valuable personal items in a burglary at his rented home on Thursday evening.

He added: "There was a lot of quality out there and I was happy to see that".

Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar were all seven strokes better than the field average of 72 on Thursday.

"What stood out to me was the 12th hole, it was a par 3. I've chipped and putted it really well the last two days, I'm just not striking it that well with the irons", confessed the world number one.

"When the wind is this strong you just have to go with it", McIlory admitted. "So I must have aimed 30 yards left of the pin into the crowd, hit a shot, started at the crowd, and stayed at the crowd for a long time before finally the last, I'd say, 20 yards started drifting over, and ended up in the middle of the green". A birdie at 11 changed the direction of travel and over the closing holes he took every opportunity to put a different complexion on his tournament.

"But we've been moving in the right direction and I believe we can do this". Their playing partner Charl Schwartzel outshone them both and finished in 66, four shots under and one shot off the lead. Very simple, but obviously quite effective over the past 27 holes, and I feel like I have. He draped a 73 on his opening 68 and remained in contention at 1 over.

Who is going to make you some money... Others told of a wind opposite to what had brushed by on Thursday.

"That stretch - 10, 11 and 12 - just to keep the momentum going and keep the round going, they were all huge". It's not that big a deal. It's his first missed cut of the 2016-17 season, but Mickelson didn't seem dismayed by it.

All along, McIlroy sang along, which could not have looked much more unlikely Friday afternoon. "It's tough to pick a club and commit to it". "I got pretty frustrated through the turn, hitting it into pot bunker after pot bunker and squeaking out pars somehow, but I thought we did a good job after the horn blew". After the round, McIlroy said Fitzgerald's question helped him snap back to life.

Rory McIlroy didn't need another scolding from his caddie or a reminder of what he had to do.

"JP basically said: "You're Rory McIlroy, what are you doing?' I said, 'Yeah, ' and at that point I mumbled something like, 'Whatever".

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