However, it was a difficult day for Shane Lowry who added a 76 to Thursday’s 74 to finish six over par and well outside the cut mark.
Graeme McDowell, the best placed of the Irish on one under after Thursday’s first round 71, stood five off the pace when three under through 10 holes, the lead enjoyed by former British Open champions Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) and American JB Holmes, both eight under, with Kyle Stanley and Vijay Singh at seven under David Hearn and Rafa Cabrera Bello held the clubhouse lead at five under.
McIlroy is still coming to grips with a lengthy lay-off during which he got married while also finding the time to finalise the details of a new clubs and balls contract with TaylorMade .
While he drove the ball beautifully, McIlroy was unable to capitalise as he pulled a succession of approach shots meaning that he was frequently putting from long distances. As a result, the round contained only two birdies.
“Today it seemed like the course should be gettable and you should be able to shoot a good score but nobody posted a really low number”, he pointed out.
“It was quite tough to get close to a lot of the pins, you had to hit some really high quality shots, and I only birdied one of the par fives.
“Overall, it was ok. I can’t believe I’m only five off the lead. I can go out in the morning and hopefully post a good score and get myself back into the tournament.”
However, apart from some indifferent shot making, there are other problems confronting the newly wed.
“I am having a bit of trouble with my back, it’s a kind of flare-up of what happened at the start of the year”, McIlroy reported. “I hit a couple of tee shots practising on Monday and just didn’t feel right. I’ve been having treatment on it and working at it and it feels more like a muscle strain. I’m going to have an MRI scan on Monday and see how it is.
“I might have to rest for a week or two but as long as I get myself right for the US Open, that’s the most important thing. I think treatment and keeping it loose and the warm weather helping a little bit, will keep me good for the week-end”.
McIlroy began at the 10th and played his opening nine holes in eight pars and a single birdie at the 15th where he drilled a perfect eight iron from 173 yards to 10 feet. On the way home, he fell one over par by three putting the sixth and in danger of missing the cut.
However, he kept his composure, finally managing to birdie the last of the four par fives at the ninth where he pitched to eight feet and knocked in one of his few decent putts of the round.
Shane Lowry double bogeyed the closing holes to each nine to finish his chances while the iconic 17th has proved very much to the liking of Masters champion Sergio Garcia. Late on Thursday, he saw his tee shot spin back into the cup for a rare hole in one and he escaped with a one over 73.
Yesterday, his ball clattered into the wooden sleepers fronting the green and bounced forward on to the green when it could easily have rebounded into the water. This time he two putted from fifty feet for a very fortunate par, the Spaniard going on to finish on even par along with world number one Dustin Johnson.
Meanwhile, England’s Matt Wallace extended his lead to five shots in the weather-affected Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort.
Wallace, who carded 10 birdies in a flawless opening 63, added five more in the first 12 holes of his second round before play was suspended due to darkness, a knock-on effect of the time lost due Thursday’s thunderstorms.
Gary Hurley was best of the Irish on six under par after a second round 69.