McIlroy hoping to close the gap

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy will draw on all his experience as he seeks to haul in Open Championship leader Phil Mickelson.

The Northern Irishman got the worst of the weather on Friday afternoon and after carding a level-par 71 to remain at two under he is eight shots behind his American rival.

McIlroy’s Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson is in second place, just one off the lead, so the focus cannot all be on Mickelson but first the 27-year-old from Holywood has to kick-start his challenge on Saturday morning.

It is something he remains confident he can do.

“I’m eight shots back. I’m trying to be as optimistic as I can, I guess,” said McIlroy.

“I can draw on memories of being in similar positions going into weekends and having won.

“I’ve given people head starts before and been able to win and I’m just going to try to draw on those memories.

“But this is a little different. It’s the Open Championship and the conditions are a little tougher.

“But I’m not going to let being on the wrong side ruin my mood or ruin my week.

“I feel like I’ve played very well and that gives me optimism going into the weekend.”

The form Mickelson has shown, however, he will take some beating.

Having just missed out on a major record 62 on Thursday, he added a 69 to stay clear at the top and had it not been for Stenson’s impressive 65 his lead over the chasing pack would have been more substantial.

One of Mickelson’s five majors came at Muirfield in 2013 so he knows how to get it done in this championship.

“I don’t feel the pressure like probably a lot of players do to try to win the Claret Jug because I’ve already won it,” said the 46-year-old, who would become the fourth oldest winner of any major and the oldest in the Open since 1867.

“We’re only halfway done with the tournament so it’s too far off to start thinking like that but certainly there is nothing more that I would love to do than add another Claret Jug.

“I understand the age thing but the fact is that from 10 years ago, when I was playing my best golf, I’m 25 pounds lighter, I’m in better shape, I’m physically stronger than I was.

“I’m starting to hit some shots like I did 10 years ago and starting to play some of my best golf again so I don’t see why there’s any reason why I can’t continue that not just this week but for years.”

Press Association Sport

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