Published: Sat, July 22, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

At British Open, Caddie Hands Rory McIlroy a Spark

At British Open, Caddie Hands Rory McIlroy a Spark

"You're Rory McIlroy", he told him.

Consider this. McIlroy was plus-five after six holes of a 72-hole event.

After making the turn in 39, the four-time major victor made his first birdie on the 11th and then added three more over his last four holes, including 17 and 18, the last one coming off a 20-foot putt.

"We had planned to take it off so it's not a big deal", said Koepka, who is trying to become the first person since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win the US Open and Open in the same year. I think anything around even par today is a great score.

McIlroy's precision off the tee and approach play was much more controlled than his previous round and when he hit it to 10 feet at the third for his fifth birdie in his last seven holes he was under par for the first time in the tournament.

The world number four has missed three cuts in the last four tournaments and his Open challenge looked to be be over before it had begun until he was jolted out of his malaise by Fitzgerald.

It did not have the immediate impact McIlroy would have hoped as he bogeyed the sixth to drop to five over but, having turned in 39 with no more dropped shots, his rescue mission kicked into gear with four birdies in his last eight holes.

"I was nervous going out, " McIlroy said.

"I just had to turn it around", he said. That helped, that got me back in a positive frame of mind.

McIlroy was yesterday to be among the early starters in the second round, and with heavy rain forecast for later in the day, this could be advantageous. I wanted to be at least level par or under par if possible for the championship.

"What stood out to me was the 12th hole, it was a par 3".

That saw him finish the day on one under par, just four strokes off the lead at the time, and nearly certain to remain close to the front considering the challenge awaiting the afternoon starters. He said some putts were distilled to "basically luck because it's moving around so much", and that, "It really is like you're hitting the shots and the ball's just doing whatever", and, in calm closing, "It's not much fun". "At that point I mumbled and said, 'Whatever.' But it helped".

"They're both huge rounds for very different reasons, but this was definitely the round that got me back into the championship". "I will go out and play a good quality round of golf in the morning and try and get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par or under par and I will be well there for the weekend".

"To see those putts go in on 10 and 11 gives me a lot of confidence going into the weekend".

"I'm an early riser so I followed the guys going off really early and the first hole looked like to be playing about a par six".

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