Rory McIlroy was still searching for the spark to ignite a challenge at the British Open as the four-time major winner carded a second successive level-par 70 on Friday.
The Northern Irishman, winner of the Open at Hoylake in 2014, began his second round with successive bogeys and never really got any momentum going thereafter.
Birdies on the fourth, ninth and 12th did get McIlroy back under par but he never looked completely in tune with his game and bogeyed the par-three 16th after finding a green side bunker.
Another bogey at 17 put the 32-year-old in danger of missing the cut before he delighted his large following with a superb birdie on the 18th to guarantee a weekend spot.
There was no great reaction from McIlroy as the ball rolled in and his body language suggested he feels that his seven-year major drought will extend beyond Sunday.
He was nine shots behind leader Collin Morikawa and he faces a huge task to play himself into contention.
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"I thought yesterday I hung in there well," said McIlroy, who had the worst of the wind during his opening round.
"I was looking forward to getting out there today and capitalising on the good finish last night but then two bogeys in the first two holes put me behind the eight ball. "
"I played well for a good stretch of holes today, getting under par for the tournament, and then a mental error on 16 where I hit a club that was barely going to get over the bunker even if I hit it exactly right."
While McIlroy has shown flashes of his best this year and claimed a first title for 18 months by winning the Wells Fargo Championship in May, he said things are still not clicking.
"That's sort of been the way for the last couple of months," he said. "It's felt close, but it just hasn't quite been close enough. Just got to keep working on it and persist with it."
Looking ahead to the weekend, McIlroy said he will have to post a low number on Saturday and hope the weather conditions worsen for the leading players.
"Geez, I know I need to go out and play really well tomorrow and then I need to pray for a bit of wind in the afternoon and see where that gets me," he said.
"Right now I'm just trying to play my own game and not even look at the board, just try to play a solid round tomorrow."