ST. ANDREUS – The applause from every corner of the Old Course that belonged to Tiger Woods for two days in St. Louis. Andrews traded Rory McIlroy to the British Open, and he certainly did his part to give them what he came to see on Saturday.
McIlroy fired an eagle bunker shot into the tenth hole which he described as part of skill and part of luck, but it was pure magic. He showed discipline in knowing when to aim away from the flag, and in taking bogey when he was trapped between a wall and a road behind 17 green.
McIlroy now shares the stage at the golf house with Viktor Hovland, the Norwegian rising star who was just as good at making birdies and avoiding the mistakes that cost so many other potential contenders.
Both made birdie in the final hole for a 6-under 66. No one else was close to four shots. They have the same score in 16 under 200, although support is unilateral.
“They’re singing his name out there. I think he’s definitely the audience’s favorite,” Masters champion Scottie Scheffler said. “How can you not root Rory?”
McIlroy is on a round of finishing eight long years without a specialty. He wants to stay in his world without ignoring the support that rains down on him.
“I think he’s also appreciating the moment and the fact that it’s incredibly great to have a chance to win the St Andrews Open,” McIlroy said. “That’s what dreams are made of. And I’m going to try to make a dream come true tomorrow.”
Hovland, already with six wins around the world in his four years since leaving the state of Oklahoma as the U.S. amateur champion, could appreciate support for McIlroy and all he has done. He played without mistakes and looked like he was ready for the task.
“I’m going against one of the best players in the world and I’m certainly not going to stop, because he’s not,” Hovland said.
It wasn’t a two-way race, though that was how it felt when the Old Course emptied and the bagpipes began to roll at the end of the day.
Cameron Smith, who started with a two-shot lead, took a double bogey in hole 13 when he attempted a bold play with his feet in a pot bunker. Cameron Young went over the green number 16 and then went back down the other side to get a double bogey in the 16th hole.
They were four shots away, still in the game. Double senior champion Dustin Johnson, the best candidate in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league to claim this important one, got into the green and into a bunker for one of the three bogeys of the back nine. He fell six shots back.
McIlroy and Hovland had no such problems.
Hovland threw a pair of 40-foot putts on his way to four consecutive birdies on the nine forwards to take the lead. McIlroy finally caught him furando from a pot bunker about 80 feet away to the eagle in the tenth hole, causing a roar that could be heard all the way back to the Royal & Ancient clubhouse.
McIlroy just a day earlier tilted his cap to Woods as he began his second round and Woods was on his way to losing the cut, crossing the Swilcan Bridge for what could be the last time. The R&A thus set the starting times for them to cross.
Woods is the only one to lead this sport, though McIlroy is the most popular in the world, and it sounded like this: on the first tee when McIlroy was introduced, for every little bird, and when he took the lead for the first time with a little bird. 14o.
“I love having so much support,” McIlroy said. “But at the same time, I have to stay in my little world and try to play a good round of golf. Hopefully that’s enough.”
His only mistake was to come out on the rough left and onto green 17, crossing the road and near the stone wall. He made a safe throw on the green and made two fucks for bogey.
Hovland, bogey-free for the round, showed some magic of his own on the 17th by clearing the dirt road just before the road, climbing the hill about 5 feet for a couple.
“I’ve never been in a more important place in my career,” Hovland said. He sounded up to the task, and the popular Norwegian also saw and heard what he will face on Sunday.
“I have a couple in there,” he said of the applause so tilted toward McIlroy. “I’m probably a underdog, but that doesn’t matter to me at all. Hopefully we can make an effort tomorrow.”
Smith missed a small birdy opportunity on the 18th and had a 73. His biggest mistake was not to put the ball back into play on the 13th, but to try to get the ball forward and get into difficult points. He also made three balls from 30 feet to start his round and only made two birdies.
Young, the PGA Tour rookie who finished a shot off a playoff in the PGA Championship two months ago, had a 71.
Scheffler was on the lookout after a 69. He missed a 10-foot birdie chance on the 16th and then made three points on the 17th for a bogey. Scheffler, who finished a shot from behind in the U.S. Open, had a 69 and was five back along with Si Woo Kim (67).
Johnson also fired three shots at a bogey on the 13th and another at par-5 on the 14th, where his long eagle putt climbed a hill, crossing the green and even a pot bunker. Instead of a little bird, he had to look for bogey. He dropped two more shots coming in for a 71 and was six behind.
McIlroy last won a major in 2014 at the PGA Championship in Valhalla. He would love nothing more than to win at home golf, at the Old Course, where Jack Nicklaus once said that a player’s career would not be complete without winning a pitcher jug at St. Louis. Andrews.
“All parts of my game felt good to me this week,” McIlroy said. “I just have to continue one more day.”
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McIlroy, Hovland avoid mistakes to share the lead in the British Open
Source link McIlroy, Hovland avoid mistakes to share the lead in the British Open