Rory McIlroy made just the start he was hoping for today after resuming the Irish Open at Royal Portrush down in joint 53rd place.
Birdies at two of his first three holes lifted the world number two, who has missed four of his last five halfway cuts, up into a tie for 21st on four under par, only three behind joint leaders Gregory Bourdy and Jeev Milkha Singh.
This is McIlroy’s final tournament before the Open Championship in three weeks and he was back on the course where he shot an amazing record 61 as a 16-year-old.
Now 23, he is one of the stars of the game and part of the reason Northern Ireland was staging its first Irish Open since 1953.
Open champion Darren Clarke boosted his hopes of making a first cut of the season when he also birdied the long 10th – his first of the day – to improve to two under and when he added a two on the short 14th he stood in a share of 34th place on three under.
The top 65 and ties go through to the final 36 holes.
McIlroy bogeyed the short 14th, but had his third birdie of the day two holes later and turned in a two-under 34.
By then, however, Bourdy and Italian Lorenzo Gagli were six clear of him.
Bourdy eagled the 528-yard second and birdied the next to reach 10 under, while Gagli packed seven birdies and a bogey into his first 11 holes.
Clarke’s third birdie came on the 15th, but after a back-nine 33 he bogeyed the first to be three under and joint 38th.
Scot Gary Orr and Finn Mikko Ilonen were joint third at eight under and then came Singh – one of the afternoon starters – Frenchman Edouard Dubois and Swede Oscar Floren on seven under