SANDWICH, England -- Rory McIlroy has been nowhere near as proficient in his play at the Open Championship as what he displayed in his marvelous U.S. Open triumph a month ago.
Nevertheless, he's still in position to win his second straight major championship.
*McIlroy's short game has been tested more this week than it was at the U.S. Open. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
McIlroy scrambled like a champion around Royal St. George's Friday afternoon and managed to cobble together a one-under par 69. His 140 total after 36 holes leaves him only four strokes behind fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke and 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.
"It was a grind," said McIlroy, 22, of Northern Ireland, who came into the week as the oddsmaker's favorite. "Even though it was nice and it was sunny and it looked nice out there, it was very tricky. The course is playing a lot firmer, a lot of crosswinds, and to shoot something in the 60s today I'm very pleased."
McIlroy has seen more of St. George's than he would prefer. He hit only six fairways Friday, giving him 14 of 28 hit thus far, and he's only found 23 greens in regulation. Still, his ability to scramble has been on display, an element he seldom needed at Congressional CC when he set the U.S. Open scoring record and won by eight strokes.
__He doesn't think anyone will be able to streak away from the pack here, especially with inclement weather expected to move in.
"I think you'll see a lot of chopping and changing at the top of the leader board," he said. "It's the most open Open I've seen in a long time. I think it'll be exciting to be a part of and it'll be exciting to watch over the next two days.
"I don't think you can have any different mindset. It really depends on what the weather gives us," McIlroy added. "I can't go out and be defensive, especially now. But four shots in 36 holes on this golf course in these conditions is nothing. It really isn't. I'm very happy with my position, and I just need to keep doing the same things I've been doing."