Revitalised Willett in contention at Irish Open

Rory Mc Ilroy talking to the press during the pro-am event prior to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club Donegal Ireland

Rory Mc Ilroy talking to the press during the pro-am event prior to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club Donegal Ireland

McIlroy has been tournament host of the Irish Open for the last four years, during which time it has become part of the lucrative Rolex Series and seen the prize fund surge to £5.3m ($7m).

"It's not often there's value in my game".

"As good a start as I can have, really, and hopefully three more rounds and if I can sneak in that top five like past year and get an Open spot, that would be great".

"It wasn't different on the back nine".

It now leaves him six back from the clubhouse leader Joakim Lagergren, who shot 6 birdies in a blistering second round of 68.

Van Rooyen, who is seeking a first European Tour title, made the ideal start with birdies on the first and second before picking up further shots on the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth.

"My mum is Swedish and she'll be at home cheering them on, so I really am going to be caught up in it", Willett said following his 70 at Ballyliffin.

"I'm just sort of stuck in neutral this week and hopefully can finish off with a good one tomorrow", McIlroy said. I wish I could have birdied the two par fives but looking back, all in all, I think it was a good day.

"I hit the ball pretty well, a couple of loose shots here and there, and holed a couple of putts out there I guess".

"I've taken the golf course on the last three days and it seemed to work". There's scores out there, I just didn't do it today.

Knox carded 68 to lie one stroke behind Willett and one clear of Englishman Lee Westwood and the French duo of Raphaël Jacquelin and Matthieu Pavon.

He's on one-under for the tournament, 13 shots behind South African Erik van Rooyen who scorched to a 66 to take a four-shot lead into the final day.