Rory McIlroy's fantastic six-under performance out of the gate Thursday put him in great position for the remainder of the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool. It also applied a great deal of pressure on the world's No. 8 golfer given his recent second-round struggles, but McIlroy met the challenge by repeating his first-round score to stay in the lead at 12 under par.
Here's the current leaderboard following the British Open's second round:
The story on everyone's mind—but especially McIlroy's—heading into Day 2 of the tournament was his challenges in second rounds this year.
Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel put it into perspective after Round 1:
Rory McIlroy is now a combined -57 in his opening rounds of 2014. He's +9 in round 2. Solid day tomorrow would open a huge door.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 17, 2014
McIlroy commented on this trend during an interview, via Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel:
Rory McIlroy on his poor Friday performances: “I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m putting a little bit too much pressure on myself.”— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 17, 2014
However, McIlroy defeated his second-round demons and produced another stellar six-under 66 on the day.
Here's a look at his complete scorecard:
McIlroy started his day with a grim omen, taking a bogey on the first hole. This was his first blemish of the tournament, and it appeared his second-round struggles would continue.
That simply wasn't the case.
After three ensuing pars, McIlroy birdied the par-five fifth hole to get back to six under for the tournament and retake the outright lead, as Fox Sports Live tweeted:
On 5, McIlroy takes the outright lead at -6 and on 7 Tiger buries a 20-footer for par to remain at Even.#TheOpen— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) July 18, 2014
McIlroy was far from done, as he birdied the par-three sixth and the par-four eighth en route to a two-under 33 on the front nine.
He certainly didn't look like a player who generally struggles in Round 2, and perhaps this tweet from Will Brinson of CBS Sports was his mantra through the first nine holes:
"Today is Thursday today is Thursday today is Thurday today is Thursday today" - Rory McIlroy's brain at #theopen— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) July 18, 2014
Things continued to go McIlroy's way as he began his second nine of the day.
On the par-five 10th, he pulled his second shot into the very long grass on the left side of the green. It looked as though it would take a miracle to make par. Well, not only did McIlroy hit a brilliant pitch out of the wiry grass, but his attempt came so close that it left him a tap-in for birdie.
At this point, ESPN summed up the day's events with this simple tweet:
Rory McIlroy's Friday is going just like his Thursday at @The_Open.— ESPN (@espn) July 18, 2014
McIlroy continued his solid round, parring the following four holes. Each time he found himself in a slight amount of trouble, he was able to hit the shot to get him out of it. After a birdie on the par-three 15th, this trend continued on the 16th hole, as noted by The Open's Twitter account:
Despite finding two bunkers on the 16th, Rory McIlroy has maintained his lead with a par #TheOpen— The Open (@LiveBulletins) July 18, 2014
He increased his lead on the 17th hole with a birdie after a monster 396-yard drive put him in striking position to take advantage of a short approach to the green. Golf.com was rather fired up over his bomb:
With McIlroy on such a great stretch, it was only fitting he would end his round with a birdie on the 18th hole despite driving into the left rough. This final birdie gave him his second consecutive six-under 66 and a total of 12 under par for the tournament.
McIlroy's fantastic second round and big lead heading into the weekend are incredibly important for multiple reasons.
Not only does this stellar Round 2 get the monkey off his back, but it also provides him with plenty of confidence and momentum going forward. It will also be difficult for the field to make up ground given the rainy and windy conditions expected, via Weather.com.
What would McIlroy's name on the Claret Jug mean for golf? Tilghman had the answer:
If Rory McIlroy wins Open he joins Tiger Woods & Jack Nicklaus as only players since 1934 to win 3+ majors by age 25.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 18, 2014
That's impressive company.
For now, McIlroy will face the daunting yet welcome task of playing the British Open's third round in the final pairing.