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Rory McIlroy in good place at Olympics after mental refresh

McIlroy and Shane Lowry are both four shots off the lead in Tokyo.

Rory McIlroy is in medal contention in Tokyo.
Rory McIlroy is in medal contention in Tokyo.
Image: Matt York/AP

RORY MCILROY BELIEVES he is reaping the benefits of a mental refresh after putting himself in contention for a medal at the halfway stage of the men’s Olympic golf event.

McIlroy has won just once since November 2019 – at the Wells Fargo Championship in May – and was off the pace at The Open, where he finished 15 shots behind surprise winner Collin Morikawa in a tie for 46th place.

He admitted there were moments at Royal St George’s earlier this month where concerns about the outcome while hovering over the ball were hampering his strokeplay, so he resolved to take a step back before heading to Tokyo.

McIlroy carded a second round 66, with an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys, to move on to seven-under overall, four shots behind leader Xander Schauffele of the United States.

Shane Lowry is alongside McIlroy on seven-under par after he shot 65 on Friday.

Asked what changes he needed to make since the end of The Open a fortnight ago and now, McIlroy said: “I think all the tools are there physically. Mentally there were a few things over the weekend at St George’s.

“I was crapping myself about hitting it out of bounds right and I hit it so far left with a three-iron and I chunked a two-iron on Sunday as well.

“I was just thinking too much about consequences and when you do that you are not as effortless, you are not as free, athletic, instinctive, all that sort of stuff.

“I actually needed to get away from the game a little bit so I didn’t touch the clubs for most of the week.

“I just wanted to get into contention going into the weekend and at least feel like I was part of the tournament. And I’ve done that.”

Speaking after his round, Lowry said: “Golf’s a funny game. I started off lovely and just sort of had that momentum for the whole day then.

“Especially when I came out after the delay. I holed a lovely putt on 13, an eight or nine-footer, and then from there, I just played lovely for the rest of the day.

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“I actually missed a short one on 17, which would have been nice to hole, but I’m happy with my score and very happy that I have a chance to do something special over the weekend.”

Alongside them on the leaderboard is Great Britain’s Paul Casey, whose round was halted after the 17th hole because of dangerous weather in the area.

For the second time in two days there was a gap in play because of thunderstorms but, after a delay of more than two hours, Schauffele finished with a flourish to catapult himself to top spot at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Schauffele had already recorded one eagle at the sixth before another at the par-five 572-metre 14th was followed by him ending his round with three successive birdies as he registered an eight-under 63.

“I just got in the flow, a nice flow there at the end,” Schauffele said. “One of those situations where I wish I could play some more holes. It was nice to make that last putt on 18 before they blew that horn (to end the day).”

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz lies just one stroke behind while home hope and reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama reached eight under overall – alongside three others – before his round was curtailed on the penultimate hole.

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