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Rory McIlroy (67) not 'back in contention, but I'm pretty close' at Irish Open

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Following a mediocre opening round, Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free 67 on Friday at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. But it could have been lower.

Beginning on the back nine at Mount Juliet Estates, McIlroy birdied four of his first eight holes in Round 2. He added a fifth birdie on the par-4 first, his 10th hole of the day, but the Northern Irishman parred in.

“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,” said McIlroy, who had three bogeys and three birdies in a first-round 72.

Full-field scores from the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

“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.”

McIlroy, who is making his first start in the tournament since 2018, was five shots off the lead as the afternoon wave started their second rounds. He finished the day eight back of leader Lucas Hebert.

McIlroy has 14 career European Tour wins, including majors and WGC events. He won this event in 2016 at The K Club; it’s his most recent regular tour victory.

This is the first of three consecutive starts in Europe for McIlroy as he’ll compete in next week’s Scottish Open and follow that with The Open at Royal St. George’s.

Ahead of those two events, however, are two more rounds at the Irish Open. And if McIlroy is to have a shot at winning, he’ll need a Saturday that is at least on par with his Friday.

“I need to go out and play as well, if not a bit better, tomorrow to give myself a real chance,” he said. “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.”