A gust of wind and early rain on Friday morning threatened to expose the teeth of the Old Course but, in the end, all this false dawn succeeded in was exposing the dentures of the aged links. Dustin Johnson is hardly known for his smile either but, on a day of extremely low scoring on the court, the two-time major champion led the morning assault on the leaderboard before Cameron Smith put on a sliver of daylight between him and the field at sunset. on St Andrews.
Appearances can be deceiving and Australia’s world number 6, with a mule so neglected it might pique the interest of a Highland sheep shearer, weaved his way through the bunkers at St Andrews with precision with a razor blade. A round of 64 took him to 13 under par and secured the Players champion a two-shot lead over Thursday night leader Cameron Young. The likes of Johnson, Scottie Scheffler and Tyrrell Hatton might have expected to be closer after outstanding rounds in the morning wave, but Smith was able to push back the tide and more.
After starting with a hat-trick of birdies, the 28-year-old went around in 31 and might have taken a slice of the major championship record that Rory McIlroy tied in 2010 if his putt hadn’t been short to last. He will still have to fend off the Northern Irishman, however, who is level with Viktor Hovland at under ten but had nearly fallen off the front page of the standings by the time he finally started his second round at 2:59 p.m. McIlroy struggled and then faltered at all three majors this year but, after a steady but unspectacular start, came to life around the turn after driving the green to the tenth hole. His back-nine included four birdies, the best of them coming at the Road Hole, and he finally received an almighty roar of support from those who stayed late into the evening.
Even that joy couldn’t compare to the feverish atmosphere that greeted Tiger Woods earlier in the afternoon. The 46-year-old may be a deity to those who came hoping for a miracle – or at least to get some last glimpses – but the golf gods had been cruel from the start when Woods found a divot then the burn thursday. . A run of 78 had already rendered any prospect of making it to the weekend obsolete and a 75 seemed destined to tire out aching joints rather than provide genuine enjoyment.
There was no farewell as he crossed the Swilcan Bridge, but tears filled Woods’ eyes as he descended the 18th fairway and was greeted with a standing ovation that may well surpass what the winner tests Sunday. He admitted afterwards that this would probably be his last Open at St Andrews and was reluctant to be drawn in when we might see him next. What remained evident was that Woods’ vulnerability did nothing to diminish his aura. In fact, allowing the audience to peek a little behind the barricade made it as endearing as it was admired.
The present awaits no one, not even Tiger Woods, and the biggest change in golf’s landscape since its emergence remains at the forefront of this tournament. For a time, players who defected to LIV Golf were written off as over the hill or ill ambition. But as threats persist over majors bans, Johnson was joined near the top of the leaderboard by Talor Gooch, while Abraham Ancer, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia all enjoyed stellar second rounds.
Never one to be knowingly understated, having recently likened the atmosphere of a LIV event to the Ryder Cup, Gooch said he was galvanized by the talk of division and derision. “It’s obviously cool for me to see other [LIV] guys who play well,” he said. “We’ve caught a lot of flak for what we’ve done here recently. Everyone, it seems, is against us, and that’s fine. It kind of brought us together. This good grace was not granted to Phil Mickelson, however. The 52-year-old missed the cut after a searing back-nine and slipped away like little more than a footnote with a weary thumb.
There were still some real feel-good stories to savor. Sheffield-born amateur Barclay Brown finished at six under after a fine round of 70, keeping him level with local role model and US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. David Carey, Ireland’s world number 912, is tied for 18th after a round of 67, having only walked the Old Course for the first time last Sunday. It promises to be an exciting weekend with many more low scores, but the pace was set on Friday and it will take a few performances to wind up the flying strands of Smith’s mullet.
- -13: Blacksmith
- -11: Young
- -10: McIlroy, Hovland
- -9: D Johnson
- -8: Scheffler, Hatton
- -7 Gooch, Scott, Cantlay, Theegala
The Open 2022: Cameron Smith takes the lead as Rory McIlroy stays in contention
Source link The Open 2022: Cameron Smith takes the lead as Rory McIlroy stays in contention