Wake up! It’s time to catch up on what happened across the pond at the Open Championship (or, if you prefer, British Open) while you were sleeping.
McIlroy In Gear
Rory McIlroy was faltering on Thursday, puttering along at five-over, 10 strokes behind the leaders. And then his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald reminded him, “You’re Rory [expletive] McIlroy,” and that’s all it took. McIlroy carded four birdies to finish the day at one over, then began Friday with three more in the first six holes. That left him just three strokes off the lead, and in perfect position to make a run at his first major since 2014.
Who doesn’t like Matt Kuchar? Nobody, that’s who. So the fact that Kuch is tied for the lead brings a smile to everyone’s face. Of course, it’s a long way from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon, but Kuchar has so far navigated tricky crosswinds to keep atop the leaderboard. And since co-leaders Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth will tee off in tougher conditions, Kuchar could take a lead into the weekend.
The Masters champion hasn’t had the greatest of Opens. The pressure’s off for him to win that first major, but this is still the tournament he’s most likely to own in the coming decade. So you can forgive him for a bit of frustration out on the course. He appeared to injure his shoulder after a frustrated swipe, briefly calling a physical therapist onto the course, but he’s soldiering onward.
Winds picked up on Friday at Royal Birkdale, frustrating players who had enjoyed a relatively calm Thursday. And the worst was yet to come, with rain projected to show up around 3 p.m. local time. That could bring leaders like Spieth, Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Ian Poulter, all of whom are on the back half of Friday’s draw, back to the field.
How windy is it getting out here? The names McILROY and SCHWARTZEL just blew straight off the standard. pic.twitter.com/U2HQ6eY6zK
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) July 21, 2017
Bad News for Phil
No one figured Phil Mickelson would win an Open Championship until he won it back in 2013, and now that he’s well into venerable-veteran status, he’s always a dark horse pick. It’s not going to happen this year, though; he started Friday with a triple-bogey and two bogeys against two birdies on the front nine. That’s left him in serious danger of missing the cut.
Finally, we close with the Beef. Andrew Johnston has become an instant golf fan favorite in the last year thanks to his beard, his game, and his brilliant nickname. Here’s his introduction on Friday morning, which may well have woken you up in the States.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.