Not even wild pheasant can put leader McIlroy off his game

By Tony Jimenez

By Tony Jimenez

HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy may have been briefly distracted by a wild pheasant but he performed like a swan gliding effortlessly across a pond as he eased into a four-shot lead at the British Open on Friday.

The young Northern Irishman banished all thoughts of 'freaky Fridays', the term used to describe his penchant for second-round collapses, by posting a second successive six-under-par 66 for a 12-under total of 132.

Not even a bird wandering across the eighth green could put him off the task in hand as he gained another shot on his rivals at the 431-yard hole.

"I haven't run into that before on a golf course," McIlroy told reporters after moving four strokes clear of big-hitting American Dustin Johnson.

"I might have had a swan or a duck or geese or something but never a pheasant. It didn't put me off. I was able to regrip and hole the putt for birdie so it was fine."

McIlroy, bidding to add to his collection of two major titles after winning the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 U.S. PGA Championship, started the second day with a one-shot lead and said he was almost in auto pilot all the way round.

"I don't know if I can describe it," he added. "It's just like I have an inner peace on the golf course.

"I'm very comfortable in this position, very comfortable doing what I'm doing right now. I wish I could get into it more often.

"I think it's a combination of confidence...being mentally strong, mentally aware of everything."

McIlroy said it helped to have the Royal Liverpool crowds on his side.

"You try and enjoy every minute of it even if sometimes it feels like a bit of a grind and you're working extremely hard to keep it together," he explained.

"The atmosphere out there is incredible. To be able to play in front of crowds like this, you have to enjoy it.

"I felt a lot of great support. It's fantastic to be able to be in this position in front of home fans."

McIlroy made an errant start with a bogey at the first but seven birdies in the last 14 holes carried him clear of the chasing pack.

The world number eight said the key to his display was his tee shots.

"Driving is the foundation to any golf game," added McIlroy. "If my driving is there everything else sort of feeds off that.

"How many drivers did I hit today? I hit six so maybe a couple more than yesterday."

(Editing by Toby Davis)