PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Everyone in the massive grandstand rose to cheer and celebrate a bold performance by Rory McIlroy, who longed for such support and affection on his walk toward his final hole at Royal Portrush in the British Open.
Except this was Friday.
And now McIlroy can only watch on the weekend as one of his best friends, Shane Lowry of Ireland, goes after the Claret Jug. Lowry birdied four of his opening five holes on his way to a 4-under 67 and shared the 36-hole lead with J.B. Holmes, who had a 68.
Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood were one shot behind. Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth were three back.
That can wait.
This day was all about McIlroy, who kept the sellout crowd on edge as he tried to make the cut after opening with a 79. The roars had the intensity of a final round as McIlroy ran off five birdies in seven holes to brighten a gloomy sky over the North Atlantic. Needing one last birdie, his approach took a wrong turn along the humps left of the 18th green.
He made par for a 65.
“It’s a moment I envisaged for the last few years,” McIlroy said. “It just happened two days early.”
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will not be around, either. It was the first time in 77 majors they have played as professionals that both missed the cut in the same major. Darren Clarke, who honed his game on the Dunluce Links as a junior and now calls Portrush home, missed the cut in a most cruel fashion with a triple bogey on his final hole.
And now the first British Open in Northern Ireland since 1951 moves on without them, still with the promise of a great show.
Lowry was so nervous he was shaking on the tee when the tournament began Thursday, swept up in the emotion of an Open on the Emerald Isle, and on a course he knows. He gave fans plenty to cheer when he opened his second round with three straight birdies, added a birdie on the fifth and holed a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 10 to reach 10 under, making him the only player this week to reach double figures under par. The cheers were as loud as he has heard.
“Just incredible,” Lowry said. “You can’t but smile, but can’t but laugh how it is. There’s no point trying to shy away from it. It’s an incredible feeling getting applauded on every green, every tee box. I’m out there giving my best, trying to do my best for everyone.”
Justin Rose had a 67 and was two shots behind, along with Cameron Smith and Justin Harding. Another shot back was a group that included Brooks Koepka, who has won three of the last six majors.
President’s golf partner topping Barbasol leaderboard: NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Jim Herman shot his second straight 7-under 65 to take the second-round lead in the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship.
President Donald Trump’s regular golf partner while working as an assistant professional at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, Herman had a one-stroke lead over Bill Haas at rain-softened Keene Trace.
Haas followed his opening 65 with a 66. He made a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5 eighth, his 17th hole.
David Toms was two strokes back at 12 under after a 64. The 52-year-old Toms made a 13-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fifth, his 14th hole of the day. D.J. Trahan, Kelly Kraft and Kramer Hickok also were 12 under, each shooting 67.
Clanton and Suwannapura open big lead at Great Lakes: MIDLAND, Mich. — Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura shot a 7-under 63 in alternate-shot play to open a five-stroke lead in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s first-year team event.
Clanton and Suwannapura birdied five of the last seven holes on the front nine and played the last five holes in 2 under, making three birdies and a bogey.
They had a 16-under 194 total at Midland Country Club, with a best-ball round left Saturday.