Rory McIlroy is relishing his weekend battle with Sheffield’s Masters champion, Danny Willett, in the Irish Open.
McIlroy had missed the cut in his home event for the last three years but added a second round of 70 to his opening 67 at The K Club to finish just a shot behind clubhouse leaders Willett and Marc Warren.
Warren surged through the field with a superb 66 to finish alongside Willett on eight under par.
World No 9 Willett carded five birdies and four bogeys in a 71 in his second tournament since claiming a maiden major title at Augusta.
“It was a little bit erratic in places,” McIlroy said after finishing his round in style with his fifth birdie of the day on the last.
“I gave myself plenty of chances and took care of most of the par-fives but made too many mistakes.”
Asked about the prospect of contending for the title, McIlroy added: “I knew I was coming in here playing pretty well. I’m excited to be up there with a chance to win.
“To have the Masters champion and me both up there, it’s shaping up to be a great weekend.”
Willett beat the scoring average for the field by an incredible 8.9 shots with an opening 65, but struggled to reproduce that form despite again getting the best of the weather.
“It wasn’t bad, a little bit scrappy,” he said.
“It was windy at times and there were a couple of sneakier flags out there as well so you can’t come off being joint leader and be too unhappy.”