The Open Day 2: How the British & Irish players fared

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Rory McIlroy stormed into contention on day two of the Open Championship to ignite his hopes of a fifth Major title and a first victory in 10 months at a windy and wet Royal Birkdale.

McIlroy, 27, was 400/1 to win with some bookmakers after bogeying five of his first six holes yesterday, but he played the same holes in eight shots fewer on Friday morning to get into red figures for the first time.

The Northern Irishman had to battle harder on the back nine as the weather conditions worsened, and admitted his short game helped to bail him out on more than one occasion as he happily signed for a two-under-par 68.

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“I think anything around even par today is a great score,” said McIlroy, who sits just five shots behind leader Jordan Spieth on one-under-par for the tournament. “I got off to a good start, which was important. The back nine is playing really, really difficult, so to birdie three of the first six and give myself that little bit of a cushion to play with was nice. 

“I made some key up-and-downs on the start of the back nine, [so] to be in after two days and be under-par for this championship after the way I started, I’m ecstatic with that. This was definitely the round that got me back into the championship.” 

Less than 24 hours earlier, McIlroy needed an expletive-ridden pep talk from caddie JP Fitzgerald to stir him into action after a horror front nine. The 2014 Open champion continued the momentum of last night’s stunning finish, capped by three birdies in his final four holes, with a 372-yard three wood down the first fairway to setup an opening birdie three. Two more followed soon after as McIlroy made the most of the calmer conditions to go out in 31 – the best score of the morning starters.

He went into full-on scramble mode thereafter with lengthy saves on 10 and 11, and continued to play his way into and out of trouble until a dropped shot on 13 – his first in 26 holes­ – halted his momentum.

Another scrappy bogey, this time on the par-5 15th, threatened to derail his challenge even further, but he made amends with a birdie at the next par-5 – the 17th – to finish the day as one of just nine players under par.

Ian Poulter, who had to go through Open qualifying last month, is the best-placed Brit on three-under after carding a superb level-par 70 amid heavy rain and 40mph gusts on Friday afternoon. Scotland’s Richie Ramsay sits a shot further back after matching Poulter’s second-round total with 16 pars, one birdie and one bogey.

Richard Bland, 44, briefly tied the lead on five-under-par after two early birdies, but lost his composure after a 15-minute weather delay and had three bogeys and a double bogey in his 72 to slip back into a tie for seventh alongside McIlroy.

European Amateur champion Alfie Plant’s scorecard was just as colourful, featuring five bogeys on the front nine and an eagle on the 15th. However, pars on the last three holes ensured he finished inside the cut-line on four-over-par and in doing so, secured the Silver Medal two days early, much to the delight of 150 friends and family in attendence. 

But while there was cause for celebration for Plant, Paul Casey endured a 40th birthday to forget as he took himself out of contention with a miserable round of 77, 11 shots worse than yesterday. A bogey-ridden front nine did most of the damage for the world No.16, and further dropped shots coming home meant he finished on three-over-par alongside Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston and Chris Wood.

The cut mark eventually fell at five-over-par, meaning local lad Tommy Fleetwood scraped through with no shots to spare after a battling performance which yielded a one-under-par round of 69.

He aknowledged afterwards that he will need a fast start on Saturday, sentiments which will no doubt be echoed by the English quintet of Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Major debutant Toby Tree who all made the weekend by the skin of their teeth.

Martin Laird wasn’t so lucky and was left to rue a horror round of 79, which included five bogeys, two doubles and no birdies. Padraig Harrington was perhaps the biggest casualty after agonisingly missing a chip for birdie on the last to make the weekend.

Other high-profile names who also missed the cut include Russell Knox (+7), 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke (+8) and Tyrrell Hatton (+11).

The British & Irish Leaderboard: Day Two

Ian Poulter: -3 (67, 70)

Richie Ramsay: -2 (68, 70)

Rory McIlroy: -2 (71, 68)

Richard Bland: -1 (67, 73)

Laurie Canter: +2 (70, 72)

Matt Fitzpatrick: +2 (69, 73)

Ross Fisher: +2 (70, 72)

Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston: +3 (69, 74)

Chris Wood: +3 (71, 72)

Paul Casey: +3 (66, 77)

Alfie Plant (a): +4 (71, 73)

Joe Dean: +4 (72, 72)

Matt Southgate: +4 (72, 72)

Andy Sullivan: +5 (70, 75)

Danny Willett: +5 (71, 74)

David Drysdale: +5 (72, 73)

Justin Rose: +5 (71, 74)

Lee Westwood: +5 (71, 74)

Shane Lowry: +5 (72, 73)

Toby Tree: +5 (70, 75)

Tommy Fleetwood: +5 (76, 69)

CUT MARK

Mark Foster: +6 (75, 71)

Padraig Harrington +6 (73, 73)

Martin Laird: +7 (68, 79)

Paul Broadhurst: +7 (75, 72)

Paul Waring: +7 (74, 73)

Russell Knox: +7 (74, 73)

Darren Clarke: +8 (75, 73)

Haydn McCullen: +8 (73, 75)

Connor Syme: +9 (73, 76)

Paul Lawrie: +9 (70, 79)

Stuart Manley: +9 (68, 81)

David Horsey: +10 (75, 75)

Nick McCarthy: +11 (74, 77)

Tyrrell Hatton: +11 (75, 76)

Callum Shinkwin: +12 (74, 78)

Harry Ellis (a): +12 (77, 75)

Sandy Lyle: +13 (77, 76)

Adam Hodkinson: +16 (80, 76)

Robert Dinwiddie: +16 (77, 79)

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