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Despite being nine-strokes back, Rory McIlroy still likes his chances at The Open

HOYLAKE, England – Only at Royal Liverpool can a nine-shot lead feel so surmountable.

Following another eventful round, Rory McIlroy seemed unfazed by his position, nine shots behind second-round front-runner Brian Harman. Instead, the world No. 2 was focused on his chances to end a major drought that stretches back to 2014.

“I might be nine back, but I don’t think there’s going to be a ton of players between me and the lead going into the weekend,” McIlroy said. “It depends what the conditions are tomorrow. Obviously depends what Brian does, as well. Right now it’s not quite out of my hands, but at the same time, I think if I can get to 3, 4, 5 under par tomorrow going into Sunday, I’ll have a really good chance.”

McIlroy started quickly Friday at The Open with birdies at Nos. 1 and 5, but he struggled on the inward nine and needed a birdie at the 18th hole for a 1-under 70.

The Northern Irishman won The Open in 2014, the last time it was played at Hoylake, but that was after opening rounds of 66 for a four-shot lead heading into the weekend. If he’s going to go back-to-back at Royal Liverpool, he’ll need to make up a considerable amount of ground.

“I don’t think I have to do anything differently. I’m hitting the ball well from tee to green,” said McIlroy, who began the week as the betting favorite following his victory Sunday at the Scottish Open. “I think more of the same, patience, hitting fairways, hitting greens, making good decisions. If I can do that and have a good attitude towards it all, that’s what I expect of myself.”