The Open: Rory McIlroy eight behind Open leader Phil Mickelson

Rory McIlroy was content with his second round in difficult conditions
The 145th Open Championship
Venue: Royal Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland Dates: 14-17 July
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Rory McIlroy says he needs to make a strong start to his third round on Saturday to have any chance of mounting a serious challenge at the Open.

The world number four dropped four shots in five holes in the middle of his second round but carded a level-par 71 to remain on two under par overall.

"That stretch was difficult and I am just glad I got a shot back coming in," said the 27-year-old.

His fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell just made the cut by one.

Phil Mickelson (-10) leads by one from Sweden Henrik Stenson at the halfway stage.

When McDowell finished his round on Friday he was disappointed to have fallen to four over, having been on level par at the turn.

At that stage the cut was projected at two over, but it was later changed and McDowell's rounds of 75 and 71 seemed likely to be just enough.

McIlroy, six shots off the pace after the first round, got birdies on the fourth, sixth and seventh to move to five under par and into a share of fifth place.

The 2014 winner's impressive effort was stalled by missing short putts for par on the ninth and 10th and there were further bogeys on 12 and 12 with a birdie on the 16th restoring him to two under par.

"It was tough out there. I feel I have played two good rounds but I am still eight shots behind," added McIlroy who had the worst of the difficult conditions on the second day at Royal Troon.

"I need a fast start tomorrow, something like 30 on the front nine to get up the leaderboard."

McDowell rues back-nine slump at Troon

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and two-times Open winner Padraig Harrington safely made the cut, both sitting on one over going into the weekend.

Ireland's Shane Lowry (+7) and Paul Dunne (+13) did not make the cut.

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