ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The intriguing test for Rory McIlroy at this year's British Open wasn't how he would perform after his sensational 63 on Thursday. Instead, it was how the 21-year-old Irishman would respond after an unsightly 80 on Friday, a round that was 11 strokes worse than his previous high at the Old Course and which dropped him from tournament leader entering Friday's play to a tie for 38th come the start of Saturday's third round.
To his credit, McIlroy didn't let Friday's disappointment carry over into Saturday, when he made six birdies en route to a three-under 69. In the process, he kept from tarnishing his next-big-thing status and kept himself within sniffing distance of the lead.
"It would have been very easy to let yesterday's round sort of linger," McIlroy said. "I just completely got it out of my head and just went and tried to shoot a good score today. So I think just the response to what happened yesterday was probably the most pleasing thing."
The round could have been even better if not for a hiccup on the 17th hole, when his approach shot bounded over the green and against the stone wall alongside the road, eventually leading to a double-bogey 6. "I just got a complete gust there," he said. "I hit a 7-iron 210 yards, and I [had] just hit a 6-iron on the last hole 175."
Still, he followed it up with a birdie on 18, keeping alive his record of not having shot a round in the 70s at the Old Course in 11 competitive rounds.
While his play on its own would lead one to believe he wasn't going to let the second round affect his confidence, his ability to joke about his misfortune suggested it was something that he wouldn't let linger.
"I definitely hit a few shots out there that I wasn't able to play yesterday," McIlroy said. "I think it might have just been because I had 80 shots yesterday, so I had a little bit of practice."
Sitting at four-under 212 entering after 54 holes, McIlroy contends he may still be a factor in the championship come Sunday, depending on how the weather conditions affect the remainder of play Saturday afternoon.
"If the lead tomorrow is eight, nine, 10 under par, I feel I've got a really good chance," McIlroy said, "because I know what I'm capable of around this golf course and I know what I'm capable of in final rounds."
-- Ryan Herrington