14 July 2023

Rory McIlroy to embrace the conditions after claiming Scottish Open halfway lead

14 July 2023

Rory McIlroy vowed to handle whatever the weather could throw at him after claiming a narrow lead at the halfway stage of the £7million Genesis Scottish Open.

McIlroy added a second round of 66 to his opening 64 at the Renaissance Club to reach 10 under par, a shot ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate Tyrrell Hatton and South Korean duo Tom Kim and Ben An.

It is the fifth time in his PGA Tour career – the event is co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour – that McIlroy has started a tournament with two scores of 66 or better.

The world number three has a runners-up finish and three wins from those previous four occasions, the most recent being his 2014 Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, venue for the final major of the year next week.

“I hit the ball really well tee to green, gave myself a ton of looks (at birdie),” McIlroy said. “Honestly it felt like four under was probably the worst I could have shot out there.

“But you know, it’s swings in roundabouts. I holed a couple of long ones on Thursday to shoot a good score and then missed a couple today, but overall really pleased with how the last two days have went.”

Saturday’s tee times have been brought forward by several hours due to the forecast for afternoon thunderstorms, with winds gusting up to 40mph predicted for Sunday.

“I don’t really have any expectations,” McIlroy added. “It would be silly of me to try to pick a potential target score to get to.

“So really just embrace the conditions and just sort of make the best of them.

“I know that I’m playing well enough tee to green to give myself some looks and hang in there, so I’m pretty confident going into the next two days, no matter what the weather throws at us.

“I keep saying that yes, we are all looking forward to next week, but I want to go and win this tournament over the weekend.”

Hatton had earlier surged into contention for a first victory in two-and-a-half years with a “stressful” second round of 62.

Asked if his round was as easy as he made it look, Hatton said: “No, it was stressful at times, as most of my rounds are.

“But very happy with the chances I gave myself. I feel I hit a lot of good iron shots today, especially compared to Thursday. Very happy with how that was and nice to see some putts drop, too.

“I had three weeks off after the US Open and you probably saw a little bit on Thursday, I was fatting a few shots.

“I was hitting balls off mats last week and, even though I got here Monday night, I still had not managed to get the ball first. We managed to do that today and hopefully that continues this weekend.”

World number one Scottie Scheffler and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington lie three shots off the lead after rounds of 65 and 66 respectively, Harrington overcoming wet and windy conditions in the first group out at 7.15am.

“I hit a great drive off my first hole of the day, 80 yards short of where I hit it yesterday,” the 51-year-old said.

“The marshals were a full 50 yards away from where they should have been for the first three, four holes because they had no idea how short the ball was going.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever been out first and I was hoping that I might turn up and get a break with the weather, but we kind of got the opposite.

“Then it lightened up obviously after six or seven holes. The ball started going a bit and it got a little easier then.”

Harrington has not won on the DP World Tour since 2016, but has won five times on the Champions Tour in the last 13 months, including successfully defending his title in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open last month.

“I feel I can challenge anybody on a links golf course without a doubt,” Harrington said. “From years of playing, it comes natural to me.

“And I don’t have a problem coming back and playing with the young guys on any golf course, but obviously links makes it a little easier for me.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox