Just as he did when he took third place two years ago – in only his second professional event – Rory McIlroy tamed one of the toughest holes in golf here yesterday.
And this time his birdie three on the famous Road Hole 17th at St Andrews helped the prodigiously talented 20-year-old into a share of the halfway lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. McIlroy, needing a top-two finish to go to the head of the European money list, is alongside fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and Scot Richie Ramsay on 11 under par after a superb 65.
And what made it extra special was the fact that he is competing in the celebrity pro-am with his dad, Gerry, 50, this coming Monday.
After three-putting the 16th for what was his only bogey on the opening two days McIlroy's father come over to him to say: ''You've finished 3-3 before, so why not do it again?''
The Dubai Desert Classic champion was already thinking the same, hit a drive and seven-iron to 15 feet, made the putt and then smashed another drive on to the 18th green 350 yards away – something he had never done before – and two-putted.
There is a lot at stake this weekend – not least a first prize of more than £485,000 – but, before transferring to Kingsbarns for the third round today, McIlroy added: ''I think playing with my dad will be a great distraction.
''Growing up, I never thought he'd be able to walk up the 18th at St Andrews with me in this big a tournament. It's fantastic.''
Four off the lead at the start of the day, but given a chance to take over at the top with Thomas Bjorn adding only a 74 at Carnoustie to his 64 at Kingsbarns, McIlroy birdied the third and then eagled the 568-yard fifth with a five-wood to 12 feet.
Three more birdies were to follow before McIlroy's stumble came three holes from home, but that was quickly forgotten.