The native of Holywood, Northern Ireland, was the fancy of many spectators at Carnoustie after posting the only bogey-free round Thursday and ending the day tied for third, three shots back of Sergio Garcia. McIlroy, whose baby-face looks would make you swear he isn't a day out of grade school, said that nerves weren't the cause of the eight-shot difference in his performance despite more benign conditions Friday.
"A 76 really wasn't reflective of the way I hit it today," McIlroy said. "I hit some good ones but just couldn't get any putts to drop. I had more adrenaline than anything today. I hit a 2-iron almost 290 yards [off the first tee]."
McIlroy finished secondary school in Northern Ireland two years ago and considered going to college in the U.S. Once away from the textbooks, however, he decided he didn't want to turn back. He remained an amateur in hopes of playing on this year's Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, a spot being fairly certain after this week's performance.
Locals have long been eyeing McIlroy as a star in waiting ever since he became the youngest player to win both the West of Ireland and the Irish Close Amateur titles in 2005. He followed it a year later by winning the European Amateur and earlier this month helping Ireland win the European Amateur Team championship.
Unless one of the two amateurs still playing this afternoon can post a sub-par round, McIlroy likely will be the only pay-for-pride player left for the weekend, assuring him the silver medal for low amateur. If that is the case, he said that he will be gunning for a top-10 finish as a target.
"I'm just excited to be playing in the Open, and I'm having fun out there," McIlroy said. "That's my No. 1 goal. I'm trying not to think about anything else."
-- Ryan Herrington