Rory McIlroy produced a second-round 66 to open up a four-shot lead in the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

Rory McIlroy produced a second-round 66 to open up a four-shot lead in the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club..

The Ulsterman – who fired a matching six-under-par 66 on day one – made a messy bogey at the 1st but bounced back with birdies at 5, 6 and 8 to reach the turn in 34.

He looked in sublime form all through his round – striking the ball as well as he has in some time – and came home in the same score to post a daunting 12-under-par 36-hole score.

Dustin Johnson is four back on six under (thru 17), with a six-strong group including Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Francesco Molinari and Rickie Fowler a stroke further adrift.

Conditions were far kinder over the first two days to those with the early-late draw, with constant winds and intermittent strong gusts causing problems for Friday’s early starters.

South African George Coetzee produced the best early display, making birdies at 13, 14 and 15 en route to a 69.

Fellow morning starter Adam Scott – desperate to avenge memories of 2012, where he bogeyed his final four holes to miss out on a play-off by one shot – birdied his last two holes for a 73, while playing partner Justin Rose produced back-to-back chip-ins at 9 and 10 on his way to a second-round 70.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th to finish 36 holes on level par. He – along with the rest of the field – will need some help from the elements if he’s to become the first player since Tiger Woods (2005/2006) to win back-to-back Claret Jugs and topple a Northern Irishman who looks back to his very best.

Woods, meanwhile, made a costly 7 at the par-4 17th and made the cut on the mark courtesy of a much-needed birdie at the par-5 18th.

Credit must also go to local factory worker John Singleton – who shot a level-par  72 to finish on six over – and young English amateur Ashley Chester (+3).