Irish Open: Can Rory McIlroy win from eight shots back at halfway?

The four-time Major winner is a long way behind after 36 holes but a weekend charge could still give him hope of lifting the trophy for a second time.

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There was a time in round one at Mount Juliet on Thursday when playing on the weekend seemed in doubt for a stuttering Rory McIlroy.

And it wouldn't have been the first time he'd crashed out at halfway in his home Open. Far from it.

Rory has repeatedly fluffed his lines in this event, missing the cut five times in his 12 appearances.

That includes three-in-a-row during a miserable run from 2013-2015, a time when he won two of his four Majors.

In Thursday's opening round at County Kilkenny, McIlroy was 2-over after 8 holes following dropped shots at 2, 6 and the par-5 8th.

He recovered somewhat to shoot even par but reflected later: "Just one of those days nothing happened. I was stuck in neutral for most of the day. Going to go work on a few things on the range here in a minute and see if I can start a bit better tomorrow."

Trailing leader Lucas Herbert by eight shots after that flat first lap, Rory needed a low one on Friday to haul himself back in contention.

It wasn't quite the super-low 18 he'd hoped for but a bogey-free 67 did at least lift him from outside the cut line to tied 34th.

The problem was that Herbert later matched his 67 to leave Rory still trailing by eight.

So, is he too far back to win? Or can Rory steam through to take a thrilling victory?

Planet Sport Golf looks at McIlroy's previous wins to look for supporting evidence.

Where was Rory at halfway in his previous wins?

McIlroy has a combined 26 strokeplay wins across the PGA TOUR, European Tour, Asian Tour and Australasian Tour.

Frequently, he's paved the way for victory with fast starts. Indeed, in five of those 26 wins he had a piece of the first-round lead.

Widening the lens a little, he was in the top five at halfway in all but four of them. In two others he was tied 11th and tied 13th respectively at the midpoint.

That leaves just two tournaments from which Rory backers can draw hope.

The first is fairly well known in the betting fraternity: the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina when he came from the cut line at halfway to storm through and win by four shots after closing rounds of 66 and 62.

The other big weekend charge occurred at the 2016 Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. Rory was only tied 30th after rounds of 71 and 67 (very similar to this week's Irish Open) but hit the gas to win by two.

In those two events he was nine and seven shots back respectively. This time he's eight in arrears.

The evidence is slim but McIlroy is not entirely without hope. And, crucially, he still believes it himself.

Comparing rounds one and two

"I got off to a better start and then once you do that, you make a couple of birdies early, you start to feel like you can make a few more. The greens were much better this morning than they were yesterday afternoon, as well. It felt a little easier to hole putts. And that's really what I did. Everything was just a little bit better today and sort of added up to a better score.

"It could have been a little better than what it was playing the two par 5s at even par on the front nine. Missed a couple of chances, too. But it was better."

On whether he can win from this position

"Yeah, of course. I need to go out and play as well if not a bit better tomorrow to give myself a real chance. I need to at least get into double digits under par by the end of tomorrow to give myself a chance and there's a bit of weather coming in, as well, and we'll see how that goes. I don't think I'm right back in contention but I'm pretty close."

On feeling the buzz from the crowd

"It was nice to feel like I had a bit of momentum on my side instead of just sort of treading water like I was yesterday. Hopefully give them a bit more to cheer about over the next few days."

On the improvements he's shown since working with Pete Cowen

"My iron play is much better. I'm hitting it pin-high more. The club's coming -- I'm hitting it with the right loft. The flights came down. Wedges are better for the most part. That's the thing. It's just consistency. Just being able to do the same thing over and over again, and I feel like we're on the right track and creating the right pattern to be able to do that."

On learning to deal with expectations in his home Open

"It's been a bit of a learning curve for me but definitely feel the support more than the expectation. Honestly it makes it easier not living here anymore, sort of separating myself from it all and coming back and enjoying the week has made a difference, as well."

READ MORE: Rory McIlroy's Irish Open highs and lows

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