The 149th Open: Rory McIlroy just relieved to make the cut after birdie at the last on day two

Rory McIlroy again needed a birdie at the last to break even with Royal St George’s, with back-to-back 70s leaving him nine shots off the pace heading into the weekend of The 149th Open.

McIlroy was flirting with a second straight missed cut in the Championship after he bogeyed the opening two holes of his second round, blocking his opening drive into the thick hay on the right while missing the green with wedge in hand from the middle of the second fairway.

The 2014 champion stopped the rot with a morale-boosting birdie at the fourth, and another at the ninth got him back to level par for the tournament, and he rolled in a good putt for a three at the 12th to appear in red figures.

But the mistakes which have blighted his season continued to creep into his game, finding a deep greenside bunker at the short 16th and again being unable to get up-and-down after another missed green at the 17th.

Those errors meant he needed to par the last to be certain of avoiding a weekend off, but McIlroy followed up an ideal tee shot with a pure iron to 12 feet which he converted for his fourth birdie of the day.

“It was nice to birdie 18 and at least make sure that I’m here for the weekend because I think, at one over, I would have been sweating a little bit,” said McIlroy, shortly before the projected cut edged towards two over par.

“Obviously it wasn’t the ideal start, bogeying the first two holes. But then I steadied the ship and I played a nice stretch of golf there where I made three birdies and no bogeys and then just a mental error on 16 trying to get too close to that flag.

“I tried to hit sand wedge into that front-right pin, and I needed as much help from the wind as possible, and I needed to absolutely button it. I hit it good, I just didn’t hit it good enough to clear that bunker and made bogey there. A bit of a mental error. That pin sort of tempted me into going for it.

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“And then I missed a little short one on 17 out of nowhere. I felt a little nervous going to that 18th tee. I knew I needed a par at least, but birdie to at least be comfortable this afternoon while I watch the golf.”

McIlroy conceded his game was “not quite close enough” over the first two days, and he now needs something special over the weekend to avoid stretching his major drought beyond seven years, although he may also require some help from the elements on Saturday.

“It’s close. I guess that’s the thing,” he said. “I feel like if I was really on my game and sharp with how I’ve played the last two days, I probably could have been six or seven under. It’s close, it’s just not close enough.

“I know I need to go out and play really well tomorrow and then I need to pray for a bit of wind in the afternoon and see where that gets me. Right now I’m just trying to play my own game and not even look at the board, just try to play a good solid round of golf tomorrow.

“It’s tough to be here and just say I’m glad to be here for the weekend, but the position I found myself in on the 18th tee, that’s the reality. But it was nice to birdie the last and guarantee some weekend golf, and just got to try to make the most of that.”

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