Rory McIlroy recovered from an early hiccup to lead a European charge at the British Open on Friday, while Sergio Garcia provided the fireworks at a blustery Royal Liverpool course.
Northern Irishman McIlroy, the overnight leader, stumbled to a bogey on the first hole but was then a model of control as he picked up three shots to lead on eight-under with nine holes of his second round remaining. The 25-year-old, looking to win the Open for the first time, birdied the fifth and the sixth and moved two clear with a putt into the centre of the hole on the eighth after the green was invaded by a pheasant.
Popular Spaniard Garcia also bogeyed the first but then holed his approach shot at the second for an eagle two that produced a huge roar from packed galleries. Garcia gained shots on the fifth and the 10th, both par-fives, and was two shots behind McIlroy along with Italian Francesco Molinari.
With winds gusting at 20mph for the earlier starters, there was very little movement on the leaderboard although South Africa’s George Coetzee made light of stiffening breezes to sail up the leaderboard with a barrage of birdies. Coetzee, at five under, was the early clubhouse leader after his second round 69. With Tiger Woods struggling to make an impression, Jim Furyk was leading the American challenge on five-under with five holes of his second round still to play.
After the calm conditions of Thursday, when McIlroy made the early running, the par-72 coastal links was far less benevolent as the players returned to action. By late morning, only five players had broken par on the outward nine but birthday boy Coetzee showed what could be done on the homeward stretch with four birdies in six holes after the turn briefly joining McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard.
“I think the wind actually helped me a little bit really because of the way I shape the ball I could commit to it,” said Coetzee, 28 today, who challenged strongly at Sandwich three years ago when he finished in a tie for 15th. For the second day in a row three-times champion Woods made a hash of the opening two holes.
Tiger leaves it late
Tiger Woods ended a scrappy second round by picking up his first birdie of the day at the 18th on Friday to ensure he qualified for the weekend at the British Open. The 14-times major champion dropped three strokes at the opening two holes before slumping to a triple-bogey seven at the 17th.
Woods then produced a delicate chip over a greenside bunker at the last continued…