A day after describing his game as being stuck in neutral, Rory McIlroy moved through the gears to get back into contention for a second victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
McIlroy added a second round of 67 to his opening 72 at Mount Juliet for a halfway total of five under par, five shots off the clubhouse lead held by England’s Dale Whitnell, who carded a second successive 67.
And the four-time major winner was rightfully somewhat disappointed not to have fared even better after covering his first 10 holes in five under before finishing with eight straight pars.
“I got off to a better start and once you do that, you make a couple of birdies early, you start to feel like you can make a few more,” said McIlroy, who started on the back nine and birdied the 10th, 12th, 15th and 17th to be out in 32 before picking up another shot on the first.
“The greens were much better this morning than they were yesterday afternoon as well so it felt a little easier to hole putts and that’s really what I did.
“Everything was just a little bit better today and it just added up to a better score. It could have been a little better than what it was, playing the two par fives in even par on the front nine. I missed a couple of chances too, but it was better.”
McIlroy initially had a poor record in the Irish Open and missed the cut for three years in succession from 2013-15 before winning at the K Club in 2016 and donating the prize money to his foundation, which was hosting the event.
“It’s been a bit of a learning curve for me,” the 32-year-old added.
“I definitely feel the support more than the expectation (now) and it makes it easier not living here any more, just separating myself from it all and coming back and just really enjoying the week has made a difference as well.”