Rory McIlroy proved his doubters wrong by posting a second consecutive round of six-under 66 at the 2014 British Open on Friday to total 12 under par and take a monstrous lead over the field heading into the weekend.
The world's No. 8-ranked golfer was the focus of many storylines involving his Friday struggles on tour this year heading into Day 2 of this prestigious tournament. Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel highlighted his woes by tweeting this statistic upon the conclusion of his first round at Royal Liverpool Golf Club:
Rory McIlroy is now a combined -57 in his opening rounds of 2014. He's +9 in round 2. Solid day tomorrow would open a huge door.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 17, 2014
That wasn't a problem for McIlroy on Friday. Here's a look at the current leaderboard:
The day certainly didn't begin favorably for McIlroy, as an ominous bogey on the first hole looked to foreshadow what was to come. However, it didn't take him long to right the ship.
He finished the front nine strong, posting three birdies over the last five holes to make the turn with a two-under 33.
At that point, McIlroy's mantra may have been something along the lines of this tweet from Bill Brinson of CBS Sports:
"Today is Thursday today is Thursday today is Thurday today is Thursday today" - Rory McIlroy's brain at #theopen— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) July 18, 2014
If that was the case, it worked.
With four birdies and zero bogeys on the back nine, McIlroy came in with a four-under 33 to secure his second 66 of the tournament. ESPN Stats & Info noted the significance of his score:
Rory McIlroy matches Tiger Woods' 36-hole scoring record for Royal Liverpool (132). #TheOpen— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 18, 2014
Should McIlroy be able to maintain his lead, he'll be in some impressive company, according to this tweet from Tilghman:
If Rory McIlroy wins Open he joins Tiger Woods & Jack Nicklaus as only players since 1934 to win 3+ majors by age 25.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 18, 2014
While McIlroy may be the low man of the tournament, it was Dustin Johnson who claimed the low round of the day with a career-tying best of seven-under 65:
Dustin Johnson shoots a 65, matching his best career round in a major (3rd round of 2013 PGA Championship). #TheOpen— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 18, 2014
Johnson was simply phenomenal tee to green on Friday. Despite missing a couple birdie putts, he never wavered, keeping his scorecard blemish free.
The winds at Royal Liverpool have been whipping, but for long hitters like Johnson and McIlroy, it may be playing into their favor. Take a look at these incredible drives on the 17th hole, via the PGA Tour:
The long drive contest at 17 goes to... Rory McIlroy: 396 yards Dustin Johnson: 397 yards #TheOpen— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 18, 2014
After McIlroy and Johnson, there's a contingent of solid players at six under. The Open's official Twitter account tweeted the golfers involved:
Charl Schwartzel birdies the last three and joins Garcia, Fowler, Moore and Francesco Molinari in the clubhouse on -6 #TheOpen— The Open (@LiveBulletins) July 18, 2014
World No. 1 Adam Scott had a bit of a roller-coaster round early in the day, following up his Round 1 score of 68 with a one-over 73 on Friday for an overall score of three under. Luckily for Scott, it could have been worse, but a pair of birdies to end his round kept him in contention.
Phil Mickelson rebounded nicely early in the day from his first-round score of 74. The defending champion's round consisted of 13 pars, two bogeys, two birdies and an eagle on the par-five fifth hole.
Lefty spoke of his round during a press conference, via Bob Harig of ESPN.com:
I played really well today, but there were a couple of loose shots. The drive on 10, the missed putt on seven ended up costing me another one on eight. And I ended up giving four or five shots away, but I played really well. Shot two under. There was like a mental barrier to get it back to even par, so that putt on 18 was big.
Speaking of trying rounds, that was exactly the case on Friday for Tiger Woods.
While most of his round featured par after par—he recorded 14 straight from hole No. 3 through 16—the start and end to his day were more than adventurous.
Tiger began his day with a double bogey on the first hole and a bogey on the second. That's not exactly the way he planned it, but according to Justin Ray of the Golf Channel, it was something he's overcome before in a major:
Look on the bright side, Tiger fans. Last time he opened major round double bogey-bogey was Sunday at '08 US Open. That ended well.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 18, 2014
Unfortunately, that scenario doesn't appear to be in play this time around.
After that huge string of pars, Woods broke the streak in the worst way imaginable—he took a triple bogey on the 17th hole.
That score put him at three over for the tournament—one stroke above the cut line—with one hole to play.
Well, in the Tiger fashion we've become accustomed to, he drained a knee-knocking eight-foot putt on his final hole to get back to two over and hang around for the weekend. Still, his 77 for the day wasn't exactly impressive:
Tiger Woods cards 77, tying his 2nd-worst career score in major as a professional.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 18, 2014
Heading into the weekend, Weather.com is predicting a change in conditions, and it's not a favorable one for the field. High winds are likely to continue, and we should finally see some rain at Royal Liverpool on Saturday.
These conditions could prevent players from going low—something that bodes well for McIlroy and his current five-stroke lead.
Should he hang on for 36 more holes, he'll hoist the coveted Claret Jug for the first time in his career. Expect plenty of drama, however, as Johnson and others aren't too far behind to make a run at the top spot.