Rory McIlroy will go into today’s third round of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon eight shots behind leader Phil Mickelson but believing winning a second Claret Jug in three years is not beyond the realms of possibility.
McIlroy appeared as happy as aCheshire Cat rather than the drowned rats many of his contemporaries among the afternoon starters felt like after a testing day’s golf played in gusting winds and heavy rains during the middle of their second rounds.
Despite a strong start to his round with three birdies in his first seven holes, he had shot a level-par 71 at Royal Troon in the worst of the week’s weather on Scotland’s west coast to remain on two under par and has an eight-stroke deficit to reduce over the next 36 holes to bridge the gap to halfway front-runner Mickelson.
Yet McIlroy said: “Honestly, I’m quite happy with my two rounds of golf. I feel like I’ve played very well.
“I kept it together in the conditions quite well.
“So if I can get off to a similar start tomorrow and get a little closer to the leaders, play the back nine a little better, you never know.
“I feel like it’s possible. There are 36 holes to go. Obviously the guys at the top of the leaderboard are playing very well.
“I had a chance to watch Phil yesterday afternoon and this morning, and it’s the best I’ve seen him play in a long, long time. His swing’s good.
“He’s got his ball flight under control. He seems like he’s putting well.
“But I’ve given people head starts before and been able to win, and I’m just going to try to draw on those memories.”
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Olympic golfing contingent increased to four yesterday.
Antrim’s Stephanie Meadow, 24, was added to the field for Rio next month after two Dutch golfers failed to meet the qualifying criteria of their national Olympic Committee.
Meadow joins amateur Leona Maguire in the women’s event and was delighted at her inclusion, tweeting: “Pretty pumped I’ll be representing Team Ireland in the 2016 Olympics.”
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