Rory McIlroy is nicely poised to win the Masters – in the slipstream of a man old enough to be his father.
The 22-year-old Ulsterman branded co-leader Freddy Couples ‘Daddy Cool’ as the 1992 green jacket winner led the way after round two.
Couples, 30 years McIlroy’s senior, shares the halfway lead with American Jason Dufner on five under par.
McIlroy is one of a number of players, including Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, lurking on four under.
Padraig Harrington is still in contention on level par but Graeme McDowell is well back on three over after surviving the five-over cut.
British Open champion Darren Clarke however is already on his way home after crashing out on 10 over par.
Tiger Woods had a bad day at the office before finishing on three over but all Irish eyes will be on McIlroy on Saturday as he bids to catch the veteran Couples.
“He’s just cool,” said McIlroy of Couples at his second round press conference.
“I hope I’m that cool when I’m 52, or whatever he is. Yeah, he’s just a cool guy. And he’s good fun.
“I’ve gotten to know him a little bit over the last couple of years, and you know, he’s laid back and relaxed and just a really nice guy.
“What he’s done here is awesome. He was playing a couple groups in front of me and I heard a couple roars.
“It’s good to see him come back and great to see him play well. It seems like most times he tees it up here, he usually makes the cut or he’s in the mix. It just shows the more you know this golf course, the better chance you have.”
The fairytale of a Couples will be decided in the next 48 hours, but McIlroy, who bogeyed the opening hole on Thursday but then birdied the 17th and 18th in the first round, is confident ahead of his weekend challenge.
McIlroy, who blew a four shot lead on the final day last year, added: “I think the two birdies helped on Thursday night, put me in a positive frame of mind going into today and from the get‑go hit the ball a lot better.
“I ended up shooting 69, which I thought was a good score today in these conditions.
“I’m not leading, so that’s a bit different. I’m sort of in the pack. But it’s not a bad place to be. I don’t know, it feels different.
“I’ve been in this position before. I’ve come back here a major champion, and I come back here with a lot more experience than I had this time last year, and you think all that just sort of makes a difference.
“I’ll just go out there on Saturday and try and post a good number and see where that leaves me. There’s a lot of guys that will think they have a chance over the next two days.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot as a player over the last 12 months and I think that’s showed in how I’ve played this year and obviously at the end of last year as well.”
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