Rory McIlroy has moved towards the top of The Open leaderboard as conditions worsened at Carnoustie for the second round of this third major championship of the year.
Seeking his first major victory in four years since winning both The Open at Hoylake and the PGA Championship at Valhalla in 2014, McIlroy moved to four under par for the Championship with a second consecutive 69 as rain descended on the famous Scottish links course for the first time this week.
The two-under-par round left the Irishman one off the early clubhouse lead held by England’s Tommy Fleetwood following his six-under 65 on Friday morning but McIlroy, 29, declared himself pleased to have moved into contention as he chases a fifth major win of his career.
“Geez, under those conditions, I would have taken that score today going out,” McIlroy said. “It wasn't that bad, but it was just damp enough and cold enough that the game plan that I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I just couldn't do it.
“All the bunkers were in play. And then with it being wet, with the ball being wet and the club face, the possibility of that getting wet, you know, the spin rate goes right on on the driver, and it could start to go either way.
“So a lot more irons off tees and a lot more conservative, but ended up being the same score. So I'm pretty pleased with that.”
Fleetwood, 27, and the reigning European number one, had finished runner-up at last month’s US Open, just a shot behind back-to-back champion Brooks Koepka at Shinnecock Hills. And the Carnoustie course record holder, who shot a 63 here last October at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, proved again that he is now a serious contender in major championships with his six-under second round, sealed with a birdie at the last, to follow an opening one-over 72.
“I struggled yesterday tee to green, and it was hard work really to just get in,” Fleetwood said. “I mean, it was a good one over in the end even though I bogeyed 16 and 17. I had some time on the range last night and came out today and just did a lot better basically.
“Put it in position all day and holed a few putts in tough conditions at 65 yards. It's a really good round of golf really here in the end.
Of sinking his birdie putt at the last the Lancastrian added: “It just helps, doesn't it? I had a great read off of Henrik (Stenson), and it makes such a nice difference to birdie the last hole with a nice putt, and I did come in with a smile.”