Rory McIlroy was pleased to be back in the hunt for a major title despite ultimately missing out at the Open at Carnoustie.
The former world number one, chasing his first major in four years, finished in a tie for second on six under, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari.
McIlroy slipped back to three under early in his round but powered back into contention on a congested leaderboard, which included a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, with an eagle on the 14th.
McIlroy said: “It was great, just to be a part of it and hear the roars, Tiger being back in the mix – everything.
“There were a lot of big names up there and it was nice to be a part of it. For a while, I thought Tiger was going to win and my mindset was, ‘go and spoil the party here’.
“It was cool, really cool. I have no regrets. I played the way I wanted to play this week and it gives me a lot of encouragement going into the final major of the year.”
McIlroy was left to wonder what might have been after settling for pars on the last four holes but he feels his game is now in good shape.
The 28-year-old said: “I’m happy with how I played. I didn’t get off to a great start, but I hung in there, and I battled back. Just sort of ran out of holes at the end.
“I’ll look back at this week and be very encouraged about what I’ve done, and the golf that I played, and I feel like that will stand me in good stead for what’s coming up.”
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The former great believes McIlroy, whose most recent major came in 2014, still has plenty left to accomplish.
And while Player compared the Irishman to Woods, he doesn’t see McIlroy reaching the same heights.
“Unbelievable talent. Maybe even more talent than Tiger Woods had at the start of their careers,” Player said.
“Will he do what Tiger Woods has done? I doubt that.”
See Player’s full comments on McIlroy in the video below.
Rory McIlroy continued to bounce back from his US Open disappointment by positioning himself three shots off the halfway lead at the Travelers Championship.
The Northern Irishman, who missed the cut in the year’s second major at Shinnecock Hills last week after struggling to an opening 80, followed his first round 64 with a 69 at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut.
He had briefly tied the lead when he got to eight under after holing a 20-foot putt for his second birdie of the day at the second hole, but a late bogey left the four-time major winner three adrift of halfway leader Brian Harman.
McIlroy’s first birdie had come at the 296-yard 15th, where he drove into a greenside bunker and splashed out to six feet, but a bogey three holes from home dropped him back to seven under.
“I’m going to do a little bit of work on the range and try and get a little bit more comfortable for the weekend,” McIlroy told pgatour.com.
“If I can put the ball on the fairway and hit my irons as well as I have done the first couple of days I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies and it’s just about converting them and taking your opportunities.”
Matt Jones, Russell Henley and Zach Johnson were all one behind Harman, who shot a round of 66, while England’s Paul Casey moved into a share of fifth place on eight under after a 67, which included six birdies and three bogeys.
However, overnight joint leader Jordan Spieth, also starting on the back nine, came unstuck in spectacular fashion at the 523-yard 13th after driving out of bounds and then hitting his approach into the greenside lake to card a triple-bogey eight.
He was in the water again at the 15th on his way to a bogey five which dropped him to three under but rescued his round with an eagle at the par-five sixth hole, having hit his approach inside two feet, to close with a 73 and finish four under.