Rory McIlroy continued his almost flawless play by carding his second 66 in two days to lead the 143rd British open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club by four strokes, coming in at a total of 12 under par after the first two rounds. Playing conditions were much windier than Thursday’s round, but far from the grim forecast that had been predicted.
After bogeying the first hole, the Irish golfer unleashed seven birdies and avoided self-destructing on his Friday outing, which has hampered his success in recent tournaments. If McIlroy is able to keep the lead through Sunday, it will give him the third leg of the career Grand Slam and put him in special company with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to have accomplished that feat by age 25.
McIlroy could have gone even deeper if he hadn’t missed a short par put on #1 and blown two birdie putt opportunities inside of ten feet on holes 11 and 12. Nevertheless, he remained very steady and drove the ball long and straight including a 396-yard drive on 17 securing his sixth birdie of the afternoon.
Dustin Johnson put up the low round of the day with an impeccable 65, gathering seven birdies and no bogies to land him in second place going into the weekend at eight under. Johnson’s score was his lowest Open round of the 20 he has played. After his round Johnson told ESPN that his success for the first two rounds is due to a good game plan and he plans on sticking to it over the weekend. From what it appears, his game plan is to drive the ball over all the fairway traps, which he did in round two, including a 400-yard drive on 16, and then sinking several long birdie putts. Johnson did not hit into one fairway bunker.
Things worked out much differently for Tiger Woods. Looking to win his 15th major and close in on Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships, Woods suffered a dismal round of 77. Starting off terribly, like he did on Thursday, Woods made a mess of holes #1 and #2, registering double bogey and bogey respectively.
Tiger then had 14 straight pars, missing putts for birdies as he burned the edges or left them just short. Unfortunately, that was the good news for Tiger. On the short par-4 17th hole Tiger launched his drive wide right and out of bounds forcing him to reload. Tiger neatly tugged his next drive deep in the rough, which ultimately led to a triple bogey most likely ending the chances for arguably golf’s greatest player to capture another major. Tiger needed a birdie on 18 to get to two-over par and make it through to the weekend and avoid missing the cut for two consecutive tournaments, something he has never done in his career. Tiger birdied 18, so his chances are alive, although coming back 14 strokes over the weekend at a major would be a long shot to say the least.
Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia had the shot of the day holing out for eagle on #3 after bogeying the first two holes. He shot a 70 to remain 6 under and 6 back of McIlroy. Tom Watson in his 125th round at the Open made the cut at 2 over.
As for McIlroy’s plan for the weekend, he told ESPN: “You don’t want to get ahead of yourself. You don’t want to look at what anyone else is doing. You have to control what you can control…. You’re battling yourself, you’re battling emotions.”