McIlroy dominates Royal Liverpool as Tiger Tumbles
Rory McIlroy cast aside any talk of those second-round doldrums with a performance at Royal Liverpool that threatened to turn this into another major championship runaway.
As for Tiger Woods, he was fortunate just to make the cut at the British Open.
Any hopes of a duel between the guy who once ruled golf and the player most likely to take his place as the face of the game quickly faded Friday as McIlroy romped to a 6-under 66 that gave him a commanding lead heading to the weekend.
This is starting to look like his first two major victories, both by eight shots, at the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship.
“I feel like I just have an inner peace on the golf course,” McIlroy said. “I very comfortable in this position. I’m very comfortable doing what I’m doing right now. It’s hard to describe. I wish I could get into it more often.”
Woods used to know that feeling.
Not on this day. In his first major of the year after undergoing back surgery, Woods showed his rust by struggling to a 77, his worst round at the British Open since that 81 at stormy Muirfield in 2002. A triple-bogey at the 17th nearly sent him home for the weekend, but a delicate chip over a pot bunker at the 18th set up a 6-foot putt that gave him his only birdie of the day.
It was just enough to keep him around for the weekend.
He’s got almost no chance of catching McIlroy, trailing the leader by a whopping 14 shots, though he did bring up Paul Lawrie rallying from 10 shots down on the final day to catch Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999.
Of course, that would require McIlroy falling apart the way Van de Velde did.
What are the chances of that?
“I’m pretty far back,” Woods conceded. “Hopefully I can play well and give myself a shot going into the back nine on Sunday.”
Woods has failed to make the cut at a major only three times in his professional career, most recently at the 2011 PGA. He also missed at the 2006 U.S. Open, shortly after the death of his father, and the 2009 British Open.
McIlroy’s matching 66s gave him a 36-hole total of 12-under 132 — the same score that Woods posted at the midway point of his last British Open victory in 2006, at this very same course along the Irish Sea.
There were no more questions about the strangest quirk in McIlroy’s year — a mysterious run of high scores in the second round, which no one could explain but had admittedly gotten in his head.
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland wiped those thoughts away by the time he went out for an afternoon round at Hoylake, where the weather again worked in favor of his end of the draw. Playing early on Thursday, McIlroy benefited from pristine conditions. On Friday, the wind howled in the morning but settled after lunchtime, taking away the primary defense of a links course.
Through the first two rounds, McIlroy has made only one bogey — at the first hole Friday. That was long forgotten by the time he closed with three easy-as-can-be birdies over the final four holes, looking as though he barely broke a sweat on a sunny, sticky day.
“It is not a surprise what Rory is doing,” Woods said. “He plays pretty aggressively to begin with, and when he is going he can get it going pretty good.”
Dustin Johnson was McIlroy’s closest challenger, claiming a spot in Saturday’s last group with the best round of the tournament so far, a 65 that left him at 136.
No one else was closer than six shots, though there’s plenty of star power in the group at 138 with former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, young gun Rickie Fowler and perennial major challenger Sergio Garcia, still seeking the signature win of his career after all these years.
Worried about an approaching storm that is forecast to strike Royal Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, the R&A announced it will have players tee off from both the first and 10th holes for the first time in the history of golf’s oldest major.
When Woods made a mess of the 17th hole, it looked as though he might not need another tee time. First, he drove far right of the fairway. After walking 150 yards toward his ball, he was told it was out of bounds. Trudging back up the fairway, he teed off again and sent the ball flying into the high grass that separates the 16th and 17th fairways. After four more shots, he had to put down a 7.
That pushed Woods total score to 3 over, one shot higher than the projected cut line as he headed to the par-5 18th. He did manage to pull things together well enough to make a birdie, but at 146 there will be more than 50 players between him and McIlroy.
“I never made anything,” Woods said. “I had myself in good positions to make birdies and I didn’t do it.”
That wasn’t a problem for McIlroy, who had plenty of birdies on his card and another that wanted to horn in on the action. As McIlroy lined up a birdie putt on the eighth green, a pheasant strolled into his path. He shooed it away with help from his caddie — and rolled the ball right into the cup.
“I haven’t run into that before on the golf course,” McIlroy said. “I might have had a swan or a duck or a geese or something. Never a pheasant. But it was nice. It didn’t put me off.”
Nothing does, it seems.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
TIGER WOODS SHOWS HIS RUST ON ROUGH DAY AT HOYLAKE
PAUL NEWBERRY, Associated Press
HOYLAKE, England — As his tee shot curled farther and farther away from the 17th fairway, heading toward all sorts of trouble, Tiger Woods simply stuffed his club in the bag.
He appeared to mumble something to himself, but that was about it.
No fiery outburst. No course language. No complaints about someone talking too loud, or being on the phone, or snapping a picture.
Shoulders slumping, Woods looked as though he had accepted his fate.
There won’t be a 15th major championship.
Not at this British Open.
Woods needed a birdie at the final hole — his only one of the day — just to make the cut. He walked off the 18th with a 5-over 77, his worst Open round since that stormy day at Muirfield in 2002, and headed to the weekend a staggering 14 shots behind the leader, Rory McIlroy.
“Not very good,” Woods said.
Indeed, it wasn’t.
Woods made double-bogey at the first hole, a bogey at the second. Just like that, all the good vibes from a 69 in the opening round were wiped away, his score tumbling to even par. From there, it was a grind — 14 pars in a row as McIlroy pulled away.
Then came the 17th, where Woods made such a mess of things, he nearly missed the cut at a major for only the fourth time in his professional career. That aforementioned tee shot sailed out of bounds right of the fairway, though Woods didn’t realize it until he had walked some 150 yards toward his ball.
Back to the tee box he trudged, to hit another after taking a one-stroke penalty. This time, Woods yanked it off in the tall grass to the left, between the 16th and 17th fairways. Four more shots were required to finish off a triple-bogey 7 that nearly finished off his hopes of getting in two more much-needed rounds.
Clearly, Woods is rusty after undergoing back surgery on March 31. He missed the Masters and the U.S. Open, finally returning to action at Congressional three weeks ago. He missed the cut in that event, and his opening round at Hoylake — five birdies in six holes on the back side — was merely an aberration.
There’s a lot of work to do.
“I had some opportunities to make a few birdies along the way to get back to even par for the day, and I just never did,” Woods said. “I just never made anything. I had myself in good positions to make birdies, and I just didn’t do it.”
More distressing for those in the Woods camp, his body language looked more and more defeated as McIlroy kept adding to what was a mere three-shot lead over Woods at the start of the round.
Woods sounded downright delusional when he brought up Paul Lawrie’s comeback from a 10-shot deficit on the final day at Carnoustie in 1999.
That, of course, required Jean Van de Velde to essentially give the tournament away on the 72nd hole.
Hard to see McIlroy making such a blunder — and, even if he did, Woods’ game being in any sort of shape to take advantage of it.
“I’m pretty far back,” Woods conceded. “Luckily I’ve got two rounds to go. And hopefully I can do something like Paul did in ‘99. He made up, I think, 10 in one day. Hopefully I can play well on the weekend and at least give myself a shot at it going to the back nine on Sunday.”
Actually, Woods’ rehabilitation would seem to be a longer-term project.
He showed flashes of his once-dominant form — that stretch of birdies on Thursday, a testy chip over a pot bunker to set up a 6-footer for birdie at the 18th on Friday — but the consistency just isn’t there. Too many errant drives. Too many iron shots that just weren’t quite close enough to the flag. Too many putts that came up short or slid by the cup.
What made it all the more striking was the performance by McIlroy, usually considered the most likely player to succeed Woods as the face of the game.
The Boy Wonder from Northern Ireland made his second straight 66 look downright easy, barely breaking a sweat on the sticky day.
“He plays pretty aggressively to begin with,” Woods said. “And when he’s going, he can get it going pretty good.”
That’s what they used to say about Woods, who was only 32 when he won his 14th major championship.
Now he’s 38, and still waiting to add another.
Hard to see that changing at Royal Liverpool.
JASON DAY GETS ANOTHER INJURY SCARE AT BRITISH OPEN
DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
HOYLAKE, England — Jason Day won the Match Play Championship, and then played only one tournament (the Masters) over the next three months because of a thumb injury. So imagine the scare at the British Open when he took a practice swing and felt a stinging sensation from his left hand.
It wasn’t the thumb. It was his wrist.
“I took a practice swing and something popped in my left side, and it was kind of like a tingling sensation through my hand, and it went straight up to my elbow,” Day said Friday after a birdie on the 18th hole for a 73 that assured he would at least make the cut.
It happened on Thursday, and Day said it bugged him the rest of the day. He received treatment and played the second round with his wrist heavily taped.
At least this injury doesn’t appear to be serious.
“I’ve had wrist injuries before,” Day said. “And it just didn’t feel like it was a harm to me. So I just wanted to get through the round and see the guys, see how it went. And today it was only one shot where it felt bad.”
Day said he had a similar problem last year at the British Open, only the pain was in his right side.
“It’s very firm here. The ground is very firm,” the Australian said. “And then you hit in the long stuff and you’re kind of gouging it out. ... So every time I come here I know that I have to get my forearm loosened up. Once they tighten up, something pops in my wrist and goes up my elbow. So that’s kind of one thing that I need. Or hit more fairways. That’s probably a good idea. Hit more fairways.”
BUBBA TV: Bubba Watson knew he was going to miss the cut at 4-over 146, but he had to wait until Friday afternoon to make sure. He was headed home to watch coverage of the British Open on the BBC and hang out with some friends.
Wait. Bubba watches golf on TV?
“I do like this when I don’t have anything else to watch,” Watson said. “At home, I won’t sit and watch golf — unless it’s the Masters. Everybody loves the Masters.”
Watson, of course, is never home for the Masters.
“I watch the replay a lot,” the two-time Masters champion said. “I’ve got two favorite years I watch all the time. But over here we’ll watch it because it’s neat. This is how golf is intended to be played. So yeah, it’s fun to watch the bounces and everything.”
Watson said the only golf — outside the Masters — he’ll watch in America is the LPGA Tour because “they’re always positive.”
“It would be rare to hear a negative comment,” Watson said. “I hate the negative comments. I mean, guys are trying their hardest. We always hear, ‘Oh, that’s terrible,’ and this and that. ‘I did this when I was 17 years old. Shot 63 before.’ That’s why I don’t watch coverage anymore. There’s too much negative stuff going on in the world — not just golf, the whole world. Just can’t even watch the stuff.”
HAAS RULING: Bill Haas thought he might be in danger of missing the cut. Instead he shot a 2-under 70 and was near the leaders when he finished. He was helped by a huge break and a ruling that required some clarification.
Haas hit his tee shot on the 17th into high rough, and with about a minute left in the five minutes they were allowed to search, the ball was found.
That was the first good break. The next one was just as important.
“It had been stepped on, but in the hay,” Haas said. “The person who found it said it was kicked, but he didn’t step on it. But we determined the lie had been altered.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez thought Haas was getting relief for an embedded lie, which he didn’t think was allowed at The Open. He asked Haas to get a second opinion — the first ruling came from USGA executive director Mike Davis.
Haas was given relief under Rule 18-1 because someone else moved the ball, and he was allowed to replace it under Rule 20-3b because the lie had been altered. Jimenez did not appear happy, mainly because he sought relief from an embedded lie a few years at The Open was denied.
“You go to the referee and explain the referee,” Jimenez said. “I don’t argue with referee, He is going to explain you the rules.”
Haas said Jimenez probably was confused because the words he was using with Davis made it sound like an embedded lie. Either way, it was a big break.
“I wouldn’t have been able to hit if the guy who found it hadn’t touched it,” Haas said. “Since I got a drop, I had a swing to get it up by the green and got it up-and-down. I was in the left rough on 18 and got a jumper all the way up by the green and made birdie. Honestly, if we don’t find the ball, I might make 6 or 7 there and we’re talking about maybe missing the cut instead of being near the lead.”
NOW FOR THE DAY JOB: John Singleton took a break from his job as a factory worker to play in the British Open this week.
After missing the cut by only two shots at Royal Liverpool on Friday, he doesn’t know if he’ll be going back to the day job.
Singleton birdied three of his final four holes to shoot a 2-under 70 in his second round. He was one of three players to have only 24 putts, the low for the day.
“I don’t know if I’m going to go back to work on Monday or not,” said the 30-year-old Singleton, who makes paints and varnishes in a local resin factory. “I just finished off an emotional roller coaster. So I think I have to come down from that and I’ll see what happens.”
PHIL’S SYMPATHY: Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, who have been battling on the golf course since they were teenagers, shared a few meaningful words when they finished their rounds. Mickelson shot 70 and was back to even-par at the British Open. Els never recovered from that opening 79 and missed the cut.
Mickelson said he could see how shook up Els was on Thursday when he hit a spectator in the face with his opening shot.
“We’ve been friends for decades now, and we were saying, ‘Let’s get this thing going.’ We hit a lot of good shots. And our games ... we’re not getting out of it what we want, but they’re not far off.”
Mickelson said even before Els three-putted from 8 inches on the opening hole Thursday, he told Lefty what happened.
“He was shook up,” Mickelson said. “And I tried to say, ‘Look, you can’t worry about that. I do it all the time. But it didn’t help, I guess.”
DIVOTS: The cut was at 2-over 146 and there were plenty of casualties. Ian Poulter missed a cut in a major for the first time this year. Bubba Watson has missed the cut in both majors since winning the Masters. He was staying with Webb Simpson, who also won’t be playing the weekend. ... Sergio Garcia played the opening three holes in even par on Friday — bogey, eagle, bogey. He holed out from the second fairway. ... Tiger Woods will be the last to tee off on Saturday, which he would have welcomed at the start of the week. But he’ll be starting on No. 10 because of the two-tee start to dodge the weather.
AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this report.
FRIDAY’S BRITISH OPEN ROUND AT A GLANCE
The Associated Press
HOYLAKE, England — A brief look at the second round Friday at the British Open:
LEADING: Rory McIlroy with a 6-under 66 and was at 12-under 132.
TRAILING: Dustin Johnson, with a tournament-best 65, was four shots behind.
STILL PLAYING: Tiger Woods made his only birdie on the last hole for a 77 to make the cut on the number at 2-over 146.
GOING HOME: Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Ian Poulter were among those missing the cut.
ROYAL LIVERPOOL REPEAT: McIlroy’s 36-hole score of 132 was the same as Tiger Woods when he won at Royal Liverpool in 2006. Woods had a one-shot lead over Ernie Els in 2006. McIlroy had a four-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.
SATURDAY FORECAST: Because of the severe weather in the forecast, the third round will start on both tees. It’s the first two-tee start in Open history.
ROUND OF THE DAY: Dustin Johnson had seven birdies in his round of 65.
SHOT OF THE DAY: Sergio Garcia holed out with a 6-iron on the second hole for eagle. Garcia holed out with a 9-iron in the third round at Royal Liverpool in 2006.
CAPTAIN TOM: Tom Watson broke his own record as the oldest player (64) to make the cut.
NOTEWORTHY: McIlroy has made only one bogey in 36 holes.
QUOTEWORTHY: “Hopefully, I put it to bed today.” — Rory McIlroy, on his streak of high scores on Friday.
TEE TIMES (All times EDT): Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Francesco Molinari (first tee), 6:01 a.m.; Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rhein Gibson, 6:01 a.m. (10th tee).
TELEVISION (All times EDT): Saturday, 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., ESPN.
SATURDAY'S BRITISH OPEN 3RD ROUND TEE TIMES
|At Royal Liverpool Golf Club|
|Purse: $9.24 million|
|Yardage: 7,312 yards; Par: 72|
|All Times EDT|
4 a.m. — Keegan Bradley, United States; Jason Dufner, United States; Phil Mickelson, United States.
4:11 a.m. — Thongchai Jaidee, Thailand; Gary Woodland, United States; D.A. Points, United States.
4:22 a.m. — Kristoffer Broberg, Sweden; David Hearn, Canada; Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland.
4:33 a.m. — Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Branden Grace, South Africa; Byeong-Hun An, South Korea.
4:44 a.m. — Shane Lowry, Ireland, Stephen Gallacher, Scotland; Matteo Manassero, Italy.
4:55 a.m. — David Howell, England; Justin Rose, England; Bill Haas, United States.
5:06 a.m. — Thomas Bjorn, Denmark; Edoardo Molinari, Italy; Marc Leishman, Australia.
5:17 a.m. — Adam Scott, Australia; Victor Dubuisson, France; Jimmy Walker, United States.
5:28 a.m. — Robert Karlsson, Sweden; Marc Warren, Scotland; Jim Furyk, United States.
5:39 a.m. — George Coetzee, South Africa; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Charl Schwartzel, South Africa
5:50 a.m. — Sergio Garcia, Spain; Rickie Fowler, United States; Ryan Moore, United States.
6:01 a.m. — Francesco Molinari, Italy; Dustin Johnson, United States; Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland.
4 a.m. — Gregory Bourdy, France; Chris Rodgers, England; Ben Martin, United States.
4:11 a.m. — Darren Clarke, Northern Ireland; Matt Kuchar, United States; Hunter Mahan, United States.
4:22 a.m. — Kevin Stadler, United States; Chris Kirk, United States; Martin Kaymer, Germany.
4:33 a.m. — John Senden, Australia; Billy Hurley III, United States; Chris Wood, England.
4:44 a.m. — Matt Jones, Australia; Brooks Koepka, United States; Paul Casey, England.
4:55 a.m. — Angel Cabrera, Argentina; Henrik Stenson, Sweden; Ryan Palmer, United States.
5:06 a.m. — Brian Harman, United States; Jamie McLeary, Scotland; Charley Hoffman, United States.
5:17 a.m. — Kevin Streelman, United States; Brendon Todd, United States; Brandt Snedeker, United States.
5:28 a.m. — Jason Day, Australia; Zach Johnson, United States; Kevin Na, United States.
5:39 a.m. — Koumei Oda, Japan; Thorbjorn Olesen, Denmark; Stewart Cink, United States.
5:50 a.m. — Tom Watson, United States; Luke Donald, England; Matt Every, United States.
6:01 a.m. — Tiger Woods, United States; Jordan Spieth, United States; Rhein Gibson, Australia.
|At Royal Liverpool Golf Club|
|Purse: $9.24 million|
|Yardage: 7,312; Par: 72|
|Billy Hurley III||73-72—145||+1|
|Missed the Cut|
|Dawie Van Der Walt||71-76—147||+3|
|Brendon de Jonge||78-70—148||+4|
|Miguel Angel Jimenez||75-73—148||+4|
|A Shun Wu||75-76—151||+7|
FRIDAY'S 2ND ROUND LEADERS' SCORECARDS
|At Royal Liverpool Golf Club|
|Purse: $9.24 million|
|Yardage: 7,312; Par: 72|