Rory McIlroy puts his Open woes behind him to shoot himself into contention for a medal at the Olympics with Irishman trailing leader Xander Schauffele by four shots
- Rory McIlroy is reaping the benefits of a mental refresh at the Tokyo Olympics
- The Irishman remains in contention for a medal and is four shots off the lead
- McIlroy took a mental break following his disappointing showing at The Open
Rory McIlroy arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday unsure whether this would be his only appearance in the Olympics. Such is the allure of the greatest sporting show on earth, he’s looking forward already to the next one in Paris.
After moving firmly into gold medal contention at halfway following a fine second round 66, the Northern Irishman spoke enthusiastically about a dramatic change of heart that mirrors a similar shift he underwent early in his career regarding the Ryder Cup.
The 32 year old dismissed that event as an ‘exhibition’ – until he played in one.
Rory McIlroy is reaping the benefits of a mental refresh and is performing strongly in Tokyo
McIlroy could hardly have sounded more apathetic when golf’s 112 year Olympic exile ended in Rio in 2016, and duly pulled out citing the Zika virus.
Even this time, representing Ireland, he made it clear that he was not going for patriotic reasons but simply because he thought it was the right thing to do for golf.
A few days soaking up the Olympic atmosphere and two solid rounds at stately Kasumigaseki that have left him four shots adrift of American pacemaker Xander Schauffele have led to a conversion that sounded positively Damascene.
‘I didn’t know if this was going to be my only Olympics but I’m looking forward already to the next one,’ he said.
‘When your sport is in the Olympics and you’re all a part of something that’s a lot bigger than your game, that’s a great thing.
The Northern Irishman endured a torrid time at The Open where he finished in 46th place
McIlroy says he put the clubs down for a week as he took a step back from the game
‘We’re staying in the same hotel as the US basketball team and a few German athletes. We were on the driving range and heard that Ireland won a gold medal in the rowing.
‘It’s so cool that you’re competing in the Olympics and 30 minutes down the road everyone else is also competing. That’s the thing I didn’t understand.’
Schauffele shot a superb 63 for a one stroke lead over Carlos Ortiz from Mexico.
Shane Lowry carded a 65 to finish alongside Irish colleague McIlroy and Team GB’s Paul Casey, who has the difficult 18th to complete this morning, following a weather delay.
Tommy Fleetwood is eight shots back with Open Champion Collin Morikawa after a 69.
He is now in with a chance of winning a medal, trailing leader Xander Schauffele by four shots