Rory McIlroy is 36 holes away from winning his first British Open. How can he screw this one up?
That will be the question on many fans' minds as McIlroy carries his four-stroke lead into the third round. Dustin Johnson is second at eight under and six golfers are tied for third at six under.
McIlroy has been brilliant so far, carding back-to-back six-under 66s through the first two rounds. That ties Tiger Woods' record for lowest 36-hole score, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Rory McIlroy matches Tiger Woods' 36-hole scoring record for Royal Liverpool (132). #TheOpen— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 18, 2014
For somebody who's been dogged by inconsistency throughout his career, the 25-year-old has been ruthless in his impressive efficiency at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. As a result, he's now the runaway favorite to win the 2014 British Open.
You can see the updated tournament odds, courtesy of OddsChecker.com.
Louis Oosthuizen's biggest issue this year has been the injury bug. His back has continued to nag him throughout the 2014 tour season, hampering his performance on the course.
However, with a two-under 70 in Round 1 and a four-under 68 in Round 2, the 31-year-old has shown that he's back to 100 percent, or at the very least something very close to full fitness.
Coming into the tournament, oddsmaker Brian Blessing highlighted Oosthuizen as one of the best value bets at the British Open, per Marcus DiNitto of SportingNews.com:
I keep chasing Louis Oosthuizen. He’s got back issues, but he’s got one of the sweetest swings and he’s got the game. He won his British Open in dominant style (in 2010). If he can keep himself upright for four days, I think Louis Oosthuizen at (60-to-1) is a guy worth a look.
Oosthuizen already has a Claret Jug in his trophy cabinet from his 2010 British Open win. He'll be one of the guys moving up the leaderboard on Saturday. Overtaking McIlroy might be near impossible, but the South African should close the gap and could possibly jump into second.
Somebody who might see an opposite turn in fortunes is Sergio Garcia.
By this point, almost everybody has given up on Sergio ever winning a major tournament. He looks destined to remain a groomsman—never the groom.
Since his runner-up finish at the 2007 British Open, Garcia has finished tied for 51st, 38th, 14th, ninth and 14th at the tournament. He also had a missed cut thrown in there. While that's not a terrible record, it's also not an impeccable record. In his last 10 major tournaments before the British Open, he finished in the top 10 only once.
Garcia's incredible eagle on No. 2 also helped to make his second-round score look a little better than it realistically could've been. Sergio got very lucky there, and the problem with luck is that it turns sooner or later.
Sergio admitted after the round how difficult earning a two-under 70 was.
"For me at this championship they want me to do well every time and to be able to keep it under par today it wasn’t easy to do," said Garcia, per Rex Hoggard of GolfChannel.com.
Don't expect him to completely implode, but at the same time, don't be surprised if he slowly descends down the leaderboard.
The most dominant storyline will be whether or not McIlroy throws what's a sure title away in spectacular Rory fashion, thus strengthening the Greg Norman comparisons.
The Northern Irishman has always been one of the most talented golfers on the PGA Tour, but it's as if he's had a neural inhibitor that's prevented him from winning majors. He trips over his own feet at the finish line.
While McIlroy has two major tournaments to his name, that hasn't stopped the constant barrage of criticism that's come with every disappointment.
And yet, here McIlroy is, two rounds away from getting three-quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam, and Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only golfers to win three-plus majors by 25, per Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel:
Back to back 66s for Rory McIlroy puts him 2 rounds away from potentially winning 3rd leg of career grand slam at age 25.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 18, 2014
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
For the most part, the second round has been McIlroy's biggest hurdle, so having conquered that at Liverpool, he looks destined for his first Claret Jug.
Since McIlroy will command the majority of fans' attention, the only other compelling storyline to follow is which guys might give him a run for his money.
Since he's got a four-stroke leading heading into Day 3, he'll likely need to provide help for guys like Johnson and everybody stuck at six under. Both Johnson and Charl Schwartzel will be serious threats following their strong second-round scores.
Adam Scott is one of the major winners lurking a little lower down the leaderboard. Sitting in a tie for 15th at three under, he'll need a Herculean performance on Saturday, but he finished second at the 2012 British Open and tied for third at last year's event.
Scott isn't somebody to dismiss offhandedly in Round 3.