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Tuesday 17 October 2017

BRITISH Open Championship leader Rory McIlroy found an "inner peace" on the Royal Liverpool links which he believed put an end to his Freaky Friday reputation.

BRITISH Open Championship leader Rory McIlroy found an "inner peace" on the Royal Liverpool links which he believed put an end to his Freaky Friday reputation.

The Northern Irishman carded a second successive 66 to move to 12 under, four shots clear of American Dustin Johnson.

Even a pheasant wandering across the eighth green as he lined up another birdie putt failed to distract him from the task in hand.

His second round had been built up into something much more significant than it should have been because of the problems he has had in following one good 18 holes with another.

"I just feel like I have an inner peace on the golf course. I'm very comfortable in this position, doing what I'm doing right now," said McIlroy, who is bidding to become only the third person to win a third major by the age of 25 after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

confident

"It's hard to describe. I wish I could get into it more often. If I'm able to do it a few times a year, that's nice.

"It's a combination of confidence, just being mentally strong, mentally aware of everything, but I think it all comes down to if you're confident with your game and you're in control of your ball out there it makes things a lot easier.

"I just take it as I feel it. I've got a couple of little trigger words that I'm using this week that I keep telling myself in my head when I'm just about to hit it, go into a shot.

"That's as complex as it gets in my head. People call it the zone; it's just a state of mind where you think clearly.

"It's nice to go out and shoot a good one today so I don't have to be asked about it (his second-round syndrome) again until I might shoot a good score at Akron (the WGC Bridgestone Invitational) and then people are asking me on Thursday afternoon.

"It's understandable. My second rounds this year have been terrible and there isn't really any explanation but hopefully I put it to bed today."

McIlroy said he was happy with his game and it showed even after he bogeyed the first hole.

It took him until the par-five fifth to regain that lost ground but from there he didn't look back as it began a run of seven birdies in his last 14 holes.

"Everything seems to be on the right track. I've always said, whenever you play this well you always wonder how you've played so badly before," he added.

"And whenever you play so badly, you always wonder how you play so well.

"Golf is a very fickle game. I'm happy where my game is at the minute and hopefully I can just keep up the solid play for another couple of days. As I said yesterday you try to enjoy every minute of it, even if sometimes it feels like a bit of a grind and you're working extremely hard to keep it together or try to make some more birdies or whatever it is.

"But the atmosphere out there is incredible. To be able to play in front of crowds like that you have to enjoy it.

"It makes it easier when you are shooting 66s and you are in the lead.

trailblazer

"Yeah, I've been in this position before in major championships but I haven't been in this position in the Open Championship.

"I'm just really looking forward to the weekend and hopefully continuing the strong play that you've seen so far."

Meanwhile, the chasing pack hunting down leader McIlroy are all wary of what the Northern Irishman can do as the front-runner.

American Dustin Johnson shot the round of the week so far with a 65 to lead the chase on eight under and will be paired with the leader in today's final group.

He is all too aware of what can happen in a major when the pressure is ramped up after conceding a three-stroke final-round lead to lose the 2010 US Open and missing a play-off for the US PGA a couple of months later after incurring a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker.

"It is fine. I'm glad I'm in the last group and playing with Rory," he said.

"But I've got to go out and play my game. I can't worry about what he is doing. I'll just go out there and try to shoot a good number."

Fellow American Rickie Fowler, who first encountered McIlroy as an amateur at the 2007 Walker Cup in County Down, is a further two shots back after a 69 but believes the Northern Irishman has become a trailblazer for their generation.

"It was definitely impressive at the Walker Cup. I know he was kind of their go-to guy as being the star and I feel like he's done definitely a really good job of living up to the expectations and playing well," said the American, five months older than McIlroy but still chasing his first major while his contemporary is looking to become only the third person to win a third by the age of 25, after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

"I know it's not easy to have those expectations and to do what he's done. When his driver is on he's almost unstoppable. I know he gets a little off here and there but I don't think he has a whole lot of weakness."

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