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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Rory McIlroy: 'With the weather we're expecting I still feel I'm in the golf tournament'

four birdies coming home dragged him back to one over, six behind the lead set by American trio Jordan Spieth, US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy reacts after holing his birdie putt on the 18th green during the first round at Royal Birkdale. Hannah McKay / Reuters
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy reacts after holing his birdie putt on the 18th green during the first round at Royal Birkdale. Hannah McKay / Reuters

Rory McIlroy is confident he can still win the British Open at Royal Birkdale after staging a back-nine rally to salvage his tournament on the first day.

At five over through six holes the Northern Irishman, who has missed three cuts in his last four events, was 10 shots off the lead and seemingly heading out.

But four birdies coming home dragged him back to one over, six behind the lead set by American trio Jordan Spieth, US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar, and with the weather set to worsen on Friday the 28-year-old Northern Irishman is confident he can turn things around.

Showery rain and winds gusting up to 35mph are forecast for the morning with heavier rain expected and strengthening winds predicted in the afternoon.

McIlroy, who tees off at 9.47am (12.47pm UAE), believes he can make a move before things turn bad.

"With the weather we're expecting I still feel I'm in the golf tournament," said the 2014 Open champion, who admitted he needed a kick up the backside from caddie JP Fitzgerald on the sixth tee.

"If I can go out and play a good quality round of golf in the morning in bad conditions and shoot something in the 60s and try to get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par, under par, I feel like I'll be right there for the weekend.

"I was four over through three holes last year in Boston [at the Deutsche Bank Championship] and won that tournament so I've done it before."

READ MORE ON THE BRITISH OPEN:

Spieth, who goes out at 2.48pm (5.48pm UAE), may find he gets the worst of the weather but he is ready for whatever the elements throw at him.

"I think experience plays a big role in dealing with conditions at an Open Championship and I feel like I've got a lot of experience having played five," said the two-time major winner who rated his opening 65 as nine out of 10.

"I've been on good ends of the draw, bad ends of the draw so I kind of understand.

"Last year's Friday round was sheets of rain, like a sideways water fountain out there and I'm expecting something like that.

"It can't be much worse than what we had in the second round last year or it would be unplayable so I'm prepared for the worst.

"And understand that I can still make pars that way. You control the ball off the tee, keep your hands dry, and you grind from inside 10 feet or you make a mid-ranger for par, something to keep the momentum going, that's important.

"Being mentally prepared is key."

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