Rory McIlroy delighted the home crowd at the K Club on Thursday afternoon after shooting a five-under-par 67 to sit two strokes behind leader Danny Willett at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Scoring appeared to be easier in the afternoon after very few players had broken 70 in the morning.
‘I feel like I took advantage of the better conditions this afternoon. I managed myself around the course very well,’ said McIlroy.
‘Having Danny here is a huge help,’ he added. ‘Him playing like he did today, and me playing like I did, it would be great if we could have a battle over the weekend and get the crowds to flock in.’
The Northern Irishman started on the first and rolled in three birdies, along with six pars, to turn in three-under-par. He made a lone bogey at the 14th, but added three further birdies on the back nine to sign for 67.
‘I’m as fresh as I’ve ever been here before,’ he said. ‘It’s easy to stay relaxed when you’re confident about your game. There are a few distractions this week, but I’ve got off to a nice start today on five-under-par.’
Englishman Willett played in the three-ball behind the tournament host and also turned in 33, but over the second loop he added four birdies in five holes to pull clear. The new dad did eventually drop a shot at the 17th, but managed to get it back at the 18th and signed for 65.
‘Just a really good day all-around and walked off with a nice score. This week was me trying to get back to what I do, and it’s paid off thus far,’ he said.
McIlroy held second place on his own, one shot ahead of Callum Shinkwin and South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl, who were tied for third after shooting four-under-par 68’s.