THERE’S been a nautical theme surrounding Rory McIlroy here at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

Having made the short hop over from Ireland to Ayrshire on the ferry, it was inevitable that ropey references to choppy waters and sinking ships would get blithely trotted out to describe the 28-year-old’s struggling summer.

While the wily veteran Padraig Harrington maintained his purposeful push at the head of affairs with a sturdy 68 to share the lead with a nine-under tally, McIlroy missed his third cut in his last four events. At this rate, the all-at-sea Northern Irishman may need to put in a distress call to the RNLI.

Of course, frantic, knee-jerk hysteria is par for the course in the fickle world that McIlroy inhabits and with the Open just round the corner, the levels of scrutiny tend to reach quite fevered, salivating proportions.

Two-over heading into day two, McIlroy mounted a spirited early charge and was three-under through seven holes. Crisis, what crisis?

It did arrive on the 13th, though and, for the second round in a row, the world No 4 racked up a crippling double-bogey six after taking two shots to extricate himself from the bunker.

McIlroy needed to make a birdie putt on the last to have a chance of making the cut but, having dinked a nice recovery shot to within six-feet, his jab never even threatened the hole.

“It was a terrible putt,” he mumbled after signing for a 71 which left him the wrong side of the cut line on a 145. “Look, I’d be much more worried if I had shot a couple of 76s and was nowhere near the cut,” reasoned McIlroy, who was joined on the casualty list by the defending champion Alex Noren. “It’s fine margins and I’m just on the wrong side of them just now.

"If I go to Birkdale and shoot a couple of even-pars like I’ve done these last few weeks then I don’t think I’ll be far away. I’m just waiting for that spark.”

Harrington, meanwhile, has certainly been given an injection of something.

A neatly assembled card didn’t have the adventure and incident of his opening 18 – “it was just boring” – but the 45-year-iold certainly wasn’t complaining after a four-birdie round.

After that glory-laden summer of 2008, when he won the Open at Birkdale and the US PGA a few weeks later, Harrington didn’t win again on the European or PGA circuits until 2015.

Having wrestled with a variety of golfing technicalities and demons in the futile quest for perfection, while embarking on the kind of deep thought processes that can only be discovered through fracking, Harrington now has a sense of contentment as he clambers the brae on the age front.

“When I came out on the tour, I played with some of the elder statesmen and I used to watch them fighting it (their game) and I would ask ‘why are you fighting it?’,” he reflected. “They would say, ‘well, if I can just win one more tournament’.

"I would think that they have already done everything that they are going to do. One more tournament is not going to change it. And I’d hate to be that guy.

"So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve pretty much done what I’m going to do in the game so why bother beating myself up over it?”

Joining Harrington at the summit were two unlikely lads in the form of Alexander Knappe of Germany and Englishman Callum Shinkwin as the leading trio finished a shot ahead of the lurking Ian Poulter.

Between them this season, Knappe and Shinkwin have missed more cuts than an absent-minded barber.

Knappe, a two-time Challenge Tour winner, had made an early exit from nine of his last 10 events and hadn’t made the weekend in eight straight tournaments.

His surging 68 was aided by a terrific spell between the 12th and 16th as he picked up six shots in a run illuminated by an eagle on the 13th, where he holed his second shot from 125 yards. Rory could’ve done with that.

Knappe’s career was hindered by a bad back but the soothing hands of world renowned doctor, Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wolfahrt has helped the recovery.

“I couldn’t get out of bed at one stage,” he said. “Hans is the best in the world, I wish Tiger Woods would go to see him.”

Shinkwin, meanwhile, has had a peculiar run of late. He missed six cuts in a row, was disqualified from the next two events and then withdrew from another.

Now, the former English Amateur champion finds himself sharing the lead at the halfway stage of an event worth a whopping $7 million.

"I found something in my game at the French Open recently, just a little piece of the puzzle, and I've managed to keep that going," said the 24-year-old.

Rickie Fowler, the 2015 Scottish Open winner, kept himself in the thick of it with a 70 for a seven-under total with his US Ryder Cup colleague Matt Kuchar one shot further back.

David Horsey holed his 8-iron tee-shot on the 11th in a 68 to move to five-under. “It’s my fourth hole-in-one in an event and one of these days I might win a car for it,” said Horsey as he went to pick up yet another bottle of bubbly.