The big names are coming thick and fast onto the 1st tee box now and the latest three-ball is defending champion Shane Lowry, pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm and first-round leader Louis Oosthuizen. Lowry goes into the thick stuff down the right, Rahm finds the first cut on the left while Oosthuizen splits the middle of the fairway.
You get the feeling that if anyone could reel in leader Collin Morikawa, it’s Jordan Spieth. The hero from Royal Birkdale – the most recent Open to be played on English soil – follows his red number at 1 with another at 2. That birdie-birdie start has elevated him to solo second on 7-under and two behind the leader.
Rory’s race is surely run. He misses a tiddler for par from inside three feet at 17 and drops to +1 and into a tie for 62nd. These closing holes were a chance to close the gap; instead, he’s made bogeys at 16 and 17. Another at 18 and he’ll be outside the cut line. Even if he scrapes through, this clearly just isn’t his week.
Cam Smith, whose transformation from baby-faced newcomer to throw-another-shrimp-on-the-barbie old-skool Aussie still catches me out, rolls in his seventh birdie of the day and third in four holes to jump to -5 and four back.
A lovely and emotional moment as the first-tee announcer pays tribute to the great Peter Alliss, who sadly passed away shortly before Christmas. “As a player and a commentator, Peter made an indelible mark on the Open. We will all miss his uniquely wise, warm and witty commentary.” Back in a moment, I think I have something in my eye.
Omen time. What do the last two Open winners (Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari) have in common? There are lots of answers to be honest but one is that both played the first two rounds in the company of South African Branden Grace. I’d probably use this fact if writing one of those Open diary columns, labelling the snippet, “Grace and Favour”, because we all love a modern TV reference. Anyway, this week Grace is playing with Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth. DeChambeau won’t keep the ‘streak’ going but Spieth might: he’s just dribbled in his putt for an opening birdie and is up to tied second.
Oh Rory! He hits a decent bunker shot at 16 but misses the par putt. Rather than eat into Morikawa’s lead, the Northern Irishman is now nine back. Outside hopes are being downgraded to something even less encouraging. Up at 18, Phil Mickelson restores some pride by following his horrid first-round 80 with a respectable 72. An odd week for the left-hander, who hasn’t really come out of the trance he put himself into in order to win the PGA Championship a couple of months ago.
Bryson DeChambeau, who had to issue a grovelling apology to his club manufacturers, Cobra, yesterday after saying his driver “sucked”, shares some bantz with the crowd on the 1st tee as he pulls out… a 4-iron (better for the soul to give a nod to a former Guardian golf correspondent/chart topper). He hit just four of 14 fairways so it’s a smart move; his drive finds the short stuff.
McIlroy is yet another player to come up short with his tee-shot at 16 as he plonks his ball in the bunker. It’s a palms on knees, head bowed reaction from Rory. A nice photo opportunity to sum up his frustrating round. Par now his focus from there but, on a better note, 17 and 18 are both playing under par today so he has a chance to nudge closer to Morikawa. At eight back, he has to really.
A bit of a wild start from Brooks Koepka today as he bids to add to his tally of four majors, all accrued since the start of 2017. After a par at the 1st, he’s gone birdie-bogey-double bogey-birdie. That’s a drop of 13 places to tied 45th and he’s back in the pack at even par.
Marcel Siem has good grounds to be nicknamed “iron-man”. Not for matching Collin Morikawa’s extraordinary levels of approach play but for the fact that, absurdly, this is his 14th tournament in a row. He’d have every right to be going spare by now but the German’s energy levels show no sign of abating and he punches the air after draining his 15-foot birdie putt at 18. That’s a second straight 67 and puts him tied for second in the clubhouse at 6-under, three behind Morikawa.
Andy Sullivan, who once won a trip to space for a hole-in-one at the KLM Open in the Netherlands, launches a long-range putt from the back of 10th to a couple of inches. He’ll tap that in for par. For those wondering, he turned it down. “Not for me,” said the man from the Midlands, showing a clear preference for Nuneaton over Neptune. And who can blame him.
“Go. Go. Go… short,” says a frustrated Justin Thomas as his wedge at the par-3 16th lands in a bunker guarding the front of the green. That’s a frustrating mistake with such a short club in hand. Having fought back from +2 to even par today, he won’t want to fall the wrong side of the cut line now. Meanwhile at 15, more evidence that Rory’s irons are nowhere near the levels of Morikawa’s as he leaks his approach short and right of the green. More up and down work needed.
Thanks Scott. No birdie for Rory at 14 unfortunately. His 10 footer catches a piece of the hole but fails to disappear from view. What’s a reasonable “can still win from here” target for McIlroy now? Sifting through the records of winners, David Duval (2001, Lytham) and Ernie Els (2012, Lytham) were both seven back at halfway; Rory is currently eight adrift. Here at Royal St George’s, Darren Clarke was tied for the 36-hole lead in 2011 while Ben Curtis was three behind after two laps. Maybe Rory would have a better chance if they head north and play the final 36 at Lytham.
Marcel Siem turned 41 yesterday, and continues to party like it’s his birthday. No bottle full of bub for the big German, but he follows birdie at 14 with another at 17, and he’s going to make the cut for the first time since his Open debut at St Andrews in 2010. He’s -5 … and with that, I’m going to hand over to your friend and mine, David Tindall, who will be your guide for the next couple of hours. See you again later.
Jack Senior only qualified last week with his top-ten finish at the Scottish Open. The 32-year-old from Blackpool has grabbed this opportunity with both hands, shooting a fine 67 yesterday, and now pouring a long birdie effort across 1 and straight into the cup. He’s -4, and shaping up to be one of the feelgood stories of the week.
Birdie for Tommy Fleetwood on 14. He’s fought back to level par for his round after that bogey-bogey stumble before the turn. He’s -3. Then coming behind, Rory McIlroy nearly does a Dustin Johnson, sending a long iron from the centre of the fairway dangerously close to the OB down the right. His ball snags in the semi-rough. It’ll be a tricky chip and putt if he wants to make birdie, but it could have been so much worse with a harder hop sideways right off the increasingly baked links.
Koepka hands the shot straight back at 3. He leaves his tee shot short and left, where he’s shortsided. He can’t get close with his chip, and he’s -1 again.
Birdie for Brooks Koepka at 2. He’s -2 again. Meanwhile Abraham Ancer nearly finds himself behind the only tree on the entire course, up a bank to the right of the par-three 3rd. He’s got a route in, though, and chips delightfully to a couple of feet, saving his par. He remains at -1 and earns a thumbs up from Ian Poulter … who looks equally chipper upon rolling in a 20-footer for birdie to rise to +1.
McIlroy sprays his tee shot at the 13th wildly right. So far right, in fact, that his ball ends up on a portion of rough trodden down by the gallery. That allows him to whistle his second into the heart of the green. He’ll have an outside look at birdie, but par is the main aim on one of the harder holes on the course.
Rory McIlroy moves into red figures for the first time since the 4th hole yesterday afternoon! At 12, he lands his wedge ten feet past the flag, and nearly spins it back into the hole for eagle. He taps in for birdie, and he’s -1. A strong finish, with the final few holes having given up plenty of birdies already today, and dreams of a second Claret Jug to the one he lifted at Hoylake in 2014 will remain very much alive.
Emiliano Grillo is this close to equalling the course record! He nearly spins a wedge into the cup at 18 from 100 yards, the ball landing a little to the right of the hole before taking a 90-degree turn and somehow defying gravity as it skirts the left lip! He taps in for birdie and a 64. The chance of becoming only the second Argentinian winner of the Open, after Roberto de Vicenzo at Birkdale in 1967, is a real one now.
An eagle opportunity slips by on 14 for Marcel Siem. Shame, but the 41-year-old German taps in for a birdie that moves him to -4. Meanwhile it’s a third birdie in four holes for Cam Smith, this time at 11, and he’s -3.
There won’t be another strong major-championship finish for this year’s Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris. He shot 69 yesterday, but has withdrawn before going out today. There’s no official reason yet, though he did appear to limp after gouging out from the rough on 15 yesterday. It wasn’t a good day for one of the year’s breakthrough stars, who also missed an 18-inch putt on 17 with a horrible, nervous yip. A fair chance he may not be too displeased to get out of Dodge. Sometimes it just isn’t your week.
Emiliano Grillo curls a right-to-left 25-footer into the cup at 17, and it’s his fourth birdie in six holes. He’s -5 and a birdie up the last would match Collin Morikawa’s 64. He’s -5 overall.
Collin Morikawa’s birdie putt horseshoes out. What a shame. Nick Faldo and Payne Stewart’s course record of 63, set then equalled in 1993, still stands. But it’s still a fantastic round of 64, and the field should be worried, because the 24-year-old Californian left a few shots out there. If he continues to dial his irons in like this, he could easily replicate that once or twice this weekend. Everyone else might be relying on his putter going totally haywire.
Tyrrell Hatton, his lid having stopped rattling, bounces straight back with birdie at 12. Of course he does. You have to love the energy of this guy. He’s +2.
Collin Morikawa gives himself a great chance of matching the course record! He splits the fairway with his drive, then eases his second pin high to eight feet. He receives a deserved ovation as he walks up to the green. A taste of what’s to come for him on Sunday afternoon?
A double-bogey five for the ever-entertaining Tyrrell Hatton at the par-three 11th. As he storms off the green in high dudgeon, burning with the heat of a thousand suns, he points a forensic finger towards someone and states: “That is absolute fucking bollocks.” Dreadful language, but what clear and crisp enunciation! The camera angle doesn’t make it clear who he’s talking to. If it’s his caddy, he deserves a clip around the lug. If it’s some yammering bampot in the gallery, or prematurely snappy camera operative, the notorious hothead’s latest meltdown is much more understandable. Still, won’t somebody think of the kids, etc., and so on.
Morikawa plays it relatively safe with his second at 17, making sure to find the front-centre of the green from the rough. He rolls his 30-foot putt up to tap-in distance, and he walks off to the 18th hoping for a birdie and a share of Nick Faldo and Payne Stewart’s course record. He remains at -9. Meanwhile at 9, birdies for playing partners Rory McIlroy and Cam Smith, who are now level par and -2 respectively.
Tommy Fleetwood is heading in the wrong direction. Seven pars to start, then a couple of bogeys. He hits the turn in 37, having slipped to -1 overall. The second of those bogeys, at 9, was slightly farcical. Chipping onto the green from the right, he hit past the hole, hoping the camber on the other side of the green would send his ball u-turning back. But he overcooked it, whistling it onto the very top of the bank, the ball staying put. From there, he does pretty well to limit the damage to one stroke.
A fine end to Ryan Fox’s round: birdie-birdie, and he signs for his second 68 of the week. He’s -4 and nicely placed going into Moving Day. He could certainly sell that finish to Collin Morikawa, who needs to replicate it if he’s to break the course record of 63 and equal Branden Grace’s all-time men’s major best of 62. Morikawa’s tee shot at 17 leaks into the first cut down the left, but avoids the dangerous stuff. He’s lost his rhythm off the tee over the last few holes.
Morikawa passes up his opportunity to bounce back with birdie. He remains at -9. His playing partner Corey Conners makes a two, though, and moves into the group at -4, alongside Emiliano Grillo, who very nearly drains an eagle putt from the centre of 14. Tony Finau meanwhile pars the last to set the seal on a fine 66.
Commercial break. “You might like to know that here in Japan, Ivor Robson is still appearing in commercials alongside Hideki Matsuyama, six years after he retired from his tee off announcer’s job,” writes Ivan Todd. Lovely! An audiobook definition of mellifluous, right there.
Matt Wallace – he of the earlier yips and operatic effs – fights his way back into contention spectacularly! Three birdies in four holes, at 13, 14 and now 16, have taken him up to -2 overall. Then in the group behind, Collin Morikawa responds to dropping his first stroke of the day by caressing his tee shot at the par-three 16th pin high. He’ll have an eight-foot look at a bounceback birdie.
Collin Morikawa’s perfect day comes to an end. His chip up from the fringe at 15 is pretty good, and he’s left with a four-footer to save his par. But putting is his notorious Achilles heel, and he pulls this one tamely wide left. It was always turning away apologetically. He slips back to -9, and now he requires two birdies if he’s to break the course record.
Emiliano Grillo, having dropped a stroke at 11, responds with back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13. He rebounds to -3 and looks to be enjoying his golf. A wide smile and a wave to the gallery. Benjamin Hebert continues to have a shocker, though. A 66 yesterday, but out in 38 today, and another stroke goes at 13. He’s back at level par. France’s long wait for her first winner since Arnaud Massy in 1907 most likely goes on.
DRAMATIC BREAKING NEWS: Collin Morikawa misses a green! He can only gouge his second at 15 onto the fringe, front right. A good chance of getting up and down from there, mind. Meanwhile a birdie putt for Rory McIlroy at the par-five 7th rolls wide right. The real mistake was sending his second into a bunker to the right side of the green. He remains at +1, 11 shots off the lead.
For the third hole in a row, Morikawa hollers “No!” after hitting his drive. This one is pulled left, and looks like heading into one of the bunkers. It skips by, but nestles into the rough. As ever, much depends on the lie, though nothing’s stopped him yet.
Morikawa is going round with Corey Conners, who has been pretty quiet today by comparison. Out in one-over 36. Pars since the turn. But now the Canadian finds the centre of the par-five 14th in two, and rolls in the 12-foot eagle putt! He’s -3, nicely placed in relation to pretty much everyone in the field bar his playing partner. Morikawa strokes in his seventh birdie of the day, and if he pars his way home, he’ll be tying the course record set in 1993 by Nick Faldo and Payne Stewart. But the way he’s playing – and with a relatively easy last couple of holes – you’d have to think Branden Grace’s all-time men’s major record of 62, set at Birkdale four years ago, is in serious danger now!
-10: Morikawa (14) -6: van Tonder (F), Oosthuizen
Morikawa is able to muscle his ball out of the deep rough down the left of 14 and over the Suez Canal. He’s left with 150 yards into the green, and so naturally eases his third straight towards the flag, the ball stopping five feet shy. This is an almost supernatural showcase of iron play.
Tony Finau makes it back-to-back birdies by absolutely steamrollering a long putt into the cup at 15. Fully recovered from that post-turn stumble, he’s back up to -4. Johannes Veerman meanwhile pars 18 and signs for a highly decent 68, though for a while it promised so much more. He’s -2.
As Collin Morikawa starts to think about a place in the history books, the game gets a little more difficult. Having scrambled well to save his par on 13, he now hooks his drive at the par-five 14th into thick oomska. From there, he might not be able to clear the Suez Canal running across the fairway; if that’s the case, he’ll be hitting his third into the green from the best part of 200 yards.
The German amateur Matthias Schmid has already played at the Open, missing the cut at Portrush two years ago. He’ll be in with a shout of the silver medal this time, though. He’s just shot a blemish-free 65, coming back in 31 strokes. At -1, he’ll definitely make the weekend.