Rory McIlroy watches his approach shot to the 10th hole on Friday
Rory McIlroy watches his approach shot to the 10th hole on Friday

Rory McIlroy carded five birdies in an impressive second round at the Irish Open at Mount Juliet.

The world number 10 from County Down lies five under and five shots behind clubhouse leader Dale Whitnell (67).

McIlroy, who was among the early starters, was five under for his opening 10 holes before parring home.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (68) and Richard Bland (66) finished on nine under while Open champion Shane Lowry is among the afternoon groups.

Lowry started his bid for a second Irish Open triumph with a 70 on Thursday while McIlroy is the best of the home contingent after improving on his opening 72.

McIlroy, the 2016 winner at the K Club, is making his first appearance at the tournament for three years.

He will also compete in next week’s Scottish Open in preparation for his challenge at the Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

“I did some practice on Thursday night and figured a few things out,” said the four-time major winner.

“Being five under through 10 I thought I was on course for something a bit lower that five under but I’ll take it and it was a big improvement on Thursday’s round.

I need to go on Saturday and play as well, if not better, to give myself a real chance of winning. Hopefully I will the give the crowd something top cheer over the next couple of days.”

Defending champion John Catlin (68) is seven under and he played alongside McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood (72), who remains on five under.

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell fired a second-round 67 to move up to three under.

Lucas Herbert topped the leaderboard after the first round on eight under and the Australian is a late starter on Friday.

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