After a memorable first day at the 2014 British Open, the second round provided a great deal of drama. We saw the most talented player in the world put together a masterful performance, the most popular player in the world fall on his sword and everything in between.
The two biggest stories of the day, as alluded to, involved Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
McIlroy has played two of his best rounds, with just one bogey through 36 holes, taking a sizable lead into Saturday's moving day.
Things were not as smooth for Tiger. In fact, you could argue that Friday was one of the most disappointing rounds he's had in recent memory considering how well he played on the back nine Thursday.
He did manage to make the cut, squeaking in right on the line at two over after firing a five-over 77.
We will have analysis on those two storylines and more, as well as a look at the leaderboard and highlights from Day 2 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
What Friday Woes?
The story for McIlroy in 2014 has been about his struggles in the second round. PGATour.com's Helen Ross notes that he came into Day 2 of the British Open with a second-round scoring average of 72.89.
After taking the lead in the first round, those questions inevitably came up prior to Friday, but McIlroy answered them in the best possible way.
If you want to nitpick, he wasn't flawless, with a bogey on the first hole. However, a six-under 66 has given the 25-year-old a commanding lead heading into the third round.
ESPN Golf's official Twitter account has the highlights:
Even though McIlroy is sitting in the catbird seat, it doesn't guarantee him a victory. ESPN Stats & Information wrangled up some numbers on him that Sam Strong of ESPN.com put into a blog post:
At the 2011 Masters, McIlroy took a 2-shot lead into the weekend -- and a 4-shot lead into Sunday's final round -- before collapsing down the stretch and carding an 8-over 80 on the tournament's final day.
At the 2011 U.S. Open, held at Congressional, he carried a 6-shot lead into the weekend … and never looked back, eventually extending the final margin to 8 strokes (he finished the tournament at 16 under par).
How fitting, then, that McIlroy's lead at the 2014 British Open splits the difference between those two lead margins. He holds a four-stroke advantage over Dustin Johnson heading into the third round.
McIlroy has already exorcised one of his demons by playing well on Friday. Now, all the pressure is on his shoulders. The 2011 U.S. Open showed how great he can be with a big lead, but The Masters that same year proved what can happen when bad things start to snowball.
Tiger's Parade Gets Rained On
Like McIlroy, Tiger's first-round performance had everyone buzzing. He looked strong with a three-under 69 that included five birdies in a six-hole span on the back nine, giving him momentum for Friday.
Instead of capitalizing on it, Tiger tripped over himself out of the gate and never recovered. As you can see in ESPN Golf's highlights below, the 14-time major winner went double bogey, bogey on the first two holes:
After the round was over, Tiger didn't try to make excuses for what happened—even though you could see the disappointment in his face:
We keep waiting for Tiger to have that one breakthrough performance at a Grand Slam event and end this six-year drought, but there must come a point where we accept this is what he will be.
He's still capable of being a great player who wins tournaments, but a 38-year-old who has had the injuries he's suffered throughout his career isn't going to suddenly be a dominating presence.
There's an excuse this time around because Tiger is still working his way back from back surgery. Looking at the bigger picture, the field has caught up to him, and it's on him to adjust.
The Oncoming Challengers
Even though McIlroy has brought Royal Liverpool to its knees twice, he's not running away from the field because there are a lot more low scores out there than anyone would have thought before the event began.
In fact, McIlroy's 66 on Friday wasn't even the best round of the day.
That distinction belonged to the aforementioned Johnson, who shot up the leaderboard with a 65, bringing his total score to eight under and four shots behind the Irishman.
Johnson was perfect on Friday with no bogeys and birdies on three of the four par-five holes. There's still work for him to do in order to catch McIlroy, but the fact that anyone is within striking distance of the two-time major winner is incredible.
As pointed out by the PGA Tour's official Twitter account, a fun tidbit about the budding rivalry between Johnson and McIlroy that will take center stage on Saturday when the play in the same group is how far the two hit their drives on No. 17:
The long drive contest at 17 goes to... Rory McIlroy: 396 yards Dustin Johnson: 397 yards #TheOpen— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 18, 2014
Johnson doesn't have as much room to breathe as McIlroy because there are six players tied for third at six under.
The big name in that group is Sergio Garcia, who has a long history of success at the British Open—including seven top-10 finishes—without ever winning the event.
Garcia also had the best shot of Round 2 with an eagle from nearly 150 yards out on the second hole that couldn't have come at a better time. He bogeyed the first and third holes.
The 34-year-old veteran looked like a threat to take the lead early on Friday, but that was before McIlroy and Johnson teed off. Everyone waits for the other shoe to drop with Garcia, who has played well this year with six top-10 finishes in 11 events.
Which contending player do you want to win the 2014 British Open?
Hopefully, the British Open doesn't become a nightmare for him. He's been in contention at this event so many times throughout his career that you can't help but root for him to win once.
Given McIlroy's performance, it probably won't happen for Garcia this year. At least he's moving in the right direction again after all those missed opportunities in the past.
It's been an eventful British Open already, and we are only halfway done. Saturday is when crazy things tend to happen, so if there's a new leader or someone close to the top implodes, no one would be surprised.
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