Rory McIlroy conquered his Friday demons at the Open Championship with his second straight six-under 66. He extended his lead to a commanding four strokes over American Dustin Johnson.
Speaking to ESPN.com's Bob Harig after his first-round performance, McIlroy said:
When you go back out on Friday after a good score, you know what you can do on the golf course. So you're going out with some expectations compared to when on Thursday you're going out with not many. I think I've just got to approach it like that, and start trying to hit solid shots the first few holes and play my way into the round, just like I did today. I hit some really good shots on the first holes and that gave me confidence and then I could go from there.
It seems the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland was finally able to do that. With that monkey off his back, he is in great position to cruise to a title—if he doesn't have a horrible showing on Saturday or Sunday.
Here's a look at the most up-to-date leaderboard.
On Saturday, there will be a two-tee start to speed up play. Per The Open Championship's official Twitter account, inclement weather is expected, and officials want to be sure to get in a full round of play:
2 tee start tomorrow at 9am due to inclement weather forecast including thunder & lightning. Some sunshine promised too. #TheOpen— The Open (@The_Open) July 18, 2014
This will be the first time the tournament has gone to this format in its history. Word and reaction comes from Harig, the Associated Press' Doug Ferguson and Sky Sports' Paul Higham:
According to R&A, Saturday will be first-ever two-tee start in Open history.— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) July 18, 2014
Two-tee smart probably smart, but hate it. Open really is modernized now. Shame.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) July 18, 2014
Here's a look at the pairings for the third round of play, per ESPN.com.
|Saturday, Round 3|
|Starting time (ET), players|
|4 a.m.: Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Phil Mickelson|
|4:11 a.m.: Thongchai Jaidee, Gary Woodland, D.A. Points|
|4:22 a.m.: Kristoffer Broberg, David Hearn, Graeme McDowell|
|4:33 a.m.: Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, Byeong-hun An|
|4:44 a.m.: Shane Lowry, Stephen Gallacher, Matteo Manassero|
|4:55 a.m.: David Howell, Justin Rose, Bill Haas|
|5:06 a.m.: Thomas Bjorn, Edoardo Molinari, Marc Leishman|
|5:17 a.m.: Adam Scott, Victor Dubuisson, Jimmy Walker|
|5:28 a.m.: Robert Karlsson, Marc Warren, Jim Furyk|
|5:39 a.m.: George Coetzee, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel|
|5:50 a.m.: Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Ryan Moore|
|6:01 a.m.: Francesco Molinari, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy|
|4 a.m.: Gregory Bourdy, Chris Rodgers, Ben Martin|
|4:11 a.m.: Darren Clarke, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan|
|4:22 a.m.: Kevin Stadler, Chris Kirk, Martin Kaymer|
|4:33 a.m.: John Senden, Billy Hurley III, Chris Wood|
|4:44 a.m.: Matt Jones, Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey|
|4:55 a.m.: Angel Cabrera, Henrik Stenson, Ryan Palmer|
|5:06 a.m.: Brian Harman, Jamie McLeary, Charley Hoffman|
|5:17 a.m.: Kevin Streelman, Brendon Todd, Brandt Snedeker|
|5:28 a.m.: Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Kevin Na|
|5:39 a.m.: Koumei Oda, Thorbjorn Olesen, Stewart Cink|
|5:50 a.m.: Tom Watson, Luke Donald, Matt Every|
|6:01 a.m.: Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rhein Gibson|
What to Expect on Saturday
More McIlroy Dominance
Now that he's over the hump, we're likely to see the same confident player who demolished the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, at the 2011 U.S. Open.
When McIlroy is on his game, he's as good as there is. Through two rounds, he's been amazing. With no one near him to apply pressure, there is no reason to believe he'll fall off the pace he's set.
Don't be shocked to see him extend or maintain his sizable lead.
Prediction for Saturday: Five-under 67
Much Ado About Nothing With Tiger
Woods will still have a dedicated ESPN 3 feed to follow his every move on Saturday, but there won't be much to see. After a disastrous five-over 77 on Friday, Woods is 14 shots behind McIlroy.
The day began horribly for Woods, and it didn't end much better. He double-bogeyed the first hole and bogeyed the second. He played the course even up until the 17th hole when complete disaster struck.
A triple bogey made the day a complete mess. Fortunately for him, he was able to birdie the final hole to just make the cut. He'll probably play well on Saturday, but he still won't be a factor.
Prediction for Saturday: Two-under 70
Fowler Stays in Top 5
Quietly, the man in the Puma gear has been consistent and steady. He's notched a three-under 69 two days in a row, and his game has matured nicely this year.
This may not be his time to capture a major, but he's definitely moving in the right direction.
Look for Fowler will put together another strong performance. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the field, McIlroy is playing out of his mind.
Prediction: Three-under 69