We’re halfway home at the Open Championship, and here’s what we know: we’re in for a hell of a finish at an absolutely gorgeous course. Some big names have gone home, but there’s plenty of heat atop the leaderboard from both familiar and new faces. Let’s run down what we know at the turn.
New faces at the top: Ireland’s Shane Lowry and America’s JB Holmes share the lead at -8. Neither one has won a major; the closest they’ve come is T2 and solo third, respectively. Right behind them at -7 are two other major-less stars: Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood. Literally any of those four would make a worthy champion, but Westwood would be a hugely popular winner after so many years of close-but-not-quite.
Major winners in the hunt: Lurking a little further down the leaderboard are Justin Rose (-6), Jordan Spieth (-5), and Brooks Koepka, who’s three strokes off the lead but always a threat to erase that within, like, two holes. All in all, there are 17 players within four strokes of the lead.
Gentle conditions: The Open always hinges on which side of the draw dodges nasty weather, and this time around, it appears the Thursday afternoon/Friday morning contingent was the lucky half. Virtually all of the leaders other than Lowry played in that draw, and took advantage of a day that started gentle and grew marginally worse as it went on. Weather forecasts for the weekend are all over the map—some forecasts call for dry weather, others for cold rain. It’s a good chance we’ll get both. And it won’t be a true Open until we do.
McIlroy’s charge: Rory McIlroy began Thursday in the worst possible way, carding a quadruple-bogey 8 on the very first hole. He tried to make up for that, carding seven birdies against one bogey in the final round, but it didn’t look to be quite enough to make the cut. An extra putt on Thursday, where he absentmindedly missed a one-footer, loomed as one of the most crucial shots of McIlroy’s career ... without that, he would be playing the weekend in front of a home crowd that adores him.
Adios, Tiger and Phil: For the first time ever, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have missed the cut together at a major. Neither one looked dialed in from the very start, and now both have plenty of questions to answer about their health and their game. Both are only a few months removed from their last win, but neither one looks like he’s in any danger of contending any time soon.
And finally: On the 32nd anniversary of Nick Faldo’s win at Muirfield, his pals at Golf Channel prepared a little anniversary tribute, featuring the guy who lost to Faldo by a single stroke ... fellow commentator Paul Azinger.
The tournament fires up again Saturday morning, and it ought to be a fine weekend of links golf, lads and lasses.
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