THE OPEN: McIlroy 'ecstatic' after memorable round

Officials help remove a signpost to allow Rory McIlroy to play on the 15th hole during yesterday's second round of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

After a horror start on Thursday, when he reached the turn in his joint-worst Open first nine of 39, he faced a tough task to break 80, but what a difference a day can make on the links.

Matt Kuchar (71) is Spieth's closest challenger while the resurgent Ian Poulter ground out 16 pars in a 70 which earned him a share of third with Brooks Koepka (72), with Scotland's Richie Ramsay also in contention on two under par.

The Northern Irishman started his opening round poorly before battling back to post a 71 and he mastered fierce crosswinds to pick up three birdies in the first six holes of round two at Royal Birkdale. It was a back-nine of 32 - the best of the day from anyone - and may just be the catalyst for a shot of positive form into the coming days for the leading player of his generation, who has balanced a frustrating season dominated by several changes, whether it be equipment, a recurring injury, and indeed marrying earlier this year. I had to find a couple of little key thoughts, and I feel like I have.

"It's getting there. As I said, it's almost there. If I go out tomorrow under bad conditions and shoot something in the 60s, I feel like I'll be right there for the weekend".

Defending champion Henrik Stenson, Australia's Jason Day and in-form Spaniard Jon Rahm signed for rounds of 1-under, while world number one Dustin Johnson and in-form Rickie Fowler could only manage rounds of 1-over like McIlroy.

He will head into the weekend five adrift of Spieth, who birdied the first and then dropped his first shot of The Open at the third, and he erred again at the ninth before a chip-in for par at the 10th shortly before the temporary suspension inspired him to birdie the 11th and 12th.

"I just hit the wrong club off the tee".

"There was a lot of quality out there and I was happy to see that". I think it was playing about 162 yards today.

Today's forecast is for more showers and a stiff breeze but Belfast boy McIlroy is used to battling the elements and is not going to lose any sleep over things he can not control.

"It's nearly there, but still just a few sloppy swings", McIlroy added.

"I set myself a target of being in a better position today than I was yesterday". It's not quite where I need it to be to win the biggest golf tournaments in the world.

"But we've been moving in the right direction and I believe we can do this". So I kept a good, positive attitude. I finished the first round one over and I wanted to be at least level par or under par if possible.

"That stretch - 10, 11 and 12 - just to keep the momentum going and keep the round going, they were all huge". The South African mainstay Ernie Els, a two-time Open champion, did not mind it so much, but did say: "Yeah, I mean I'm 6-5, so the wind is going to get me".

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