Rory McIlroy will head into the weekend as the man to beat at The Open Championship, and the rest of the field will have some work to do.
McIlroy conquered his second-round jitters on Friday, matching his round of 66 on Thursday at Royal Liverpool to pull 12 shots under par and open a four-stroke lead on American Dustin Johnson.
The round came against the backdrop of McIlroy’s known struggles on the second day of tournaments, and particularly at The Open, where he’s started fast only to come apart on the second day—who can forget his infamous 63 opening round at St Andrews in 2010 followed by a second-round 80—on four prior occasions.
He heads into the weekend with a solid lead over Johnson.
The 30-year-old American found his way into contention by firing a round-best 65 to put himself eight-under for the tournament.
A group of six other players—including Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia—sit six shots off the pace at six-under.
Tiger Woods is not one of those players. In fact, he’s lucky to even be playing on Saturday.
After coming out of the gate with a three-under round on Thursday, the 14-time major champion was forced to make birdie on the par-five 18th hole just to get within the cut line.
Woods shot a disastrous 77 in a round with only one birdie and three—a single, double and triple—bogeys.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson rebounded a bit on Friday, shooting a two-under 70 to get back to even, but 2014 Masters champion Bubba Watson wasn’t so lucky. He wasn’t able to recover from an opening round 76 and missed the cut by two strokes.
That same fate didn't befall five-time Open champion Tom Watson. The 64-year-old finished the round at two-over and will continue his run into the weekend.
Saturday’s third round will feature a two-tee start—where one group begins on the front nine and another on the back nine—because of concerns about weather possibly interrupting play.
The two-tee start will be the first in the history of The Open Championship.