The Open 2019
Rory McIlroy agonisingly missed out on the cut at The Open as Ireland’s Shane Lowry produced a four-under-par 67 to take a share of the lead.
McIlroy’s 79 on Thursday left him eight shots shy of the cut at one over, and he almost achieved his feat but failed to pick up birdie at the last.
Lowry, 32, is on eight under alongside USA’s JB Holmes, with England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood a shot back.
Another Englishman, Justin Rose, is on six under after a 67 at Royal Portrush.
The crowd following the Northern Ireland’s McIlroy around the County Antrim course began to grow in size as he sank birdie after birdie on the inward nine.
By the 18th the cheer that greeted the 2014 champion was as if he was going for his second title rather than a mission to make the cut.
However, his hopes faded with his approach to the green as the wind took the ball down the bank. The following chip landed wide and ended the 30-year-old’s hopes of winning a major on home soil.
He told Sky Sports: “Part of me is very disappointed not to be here for the weekend. I’m emotional but happy with how I played.
“The support I got out there was incredible and you could see on the back nine, I went with it today and that’s what I was planning to do all week.
“Yesterday gave me a mountain to climb but I dug in and showed good resilience.
“It’s going to hurt for a bit. I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time.
“I didn’t play my part but everyone in Northern Ireland came out to watch me and played theirs.”
It has been quite an eventful 12 months for Lowry who has risen to from world number 90 to 33 following victory in Abu Dhabi in January and an eighth place at the US PGA.
His best performance at a major to date was tied second at the 2016 US Open. However, he is now targeting his first major.
“I’m obviously going to be thinking about it tonight,” the 32-year-old said when asked about the prospect of winning the Claret Jug.
“There’s no point in shying away from it. I’m in a great position but, my goodness, have we got a long way to go.
“As a golfer you have such a long career. I’ve been 10 years now and it’s just a roller coaster. I think the reason I’m so good mentally now is I know – I think – how to take the downs.”
Unlike McIlroy, three-time winner and current Masters champion Tiger Woods never looked like making the cut, and finished on six over.
It is only the third time in 21 attempts the 15-time major winner has not made the weekend at The Open, and only the 10th time in majors he has missed the cut. Seven of those have come in the past 13 tournaments.
Fellow American and 2013 champion Phil Mickelson ended his campaign with a 74 for eight over. It is the first time both he and Woods have exited the same major after the first two rounds.
The biggest challenge to a European win might come from world number one Brooks Koepka and 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, who are both on five under.
American Koepka, seeking his fifth major in two years, followed Thursday’s 68 with a 69, and compatriot Spieth produced an eagle on the par-five seventh on his way to a 67.
Australia’s Cameron Smith and Justin Harding are among those in contention, on six under.
Fleetwood, last year’s US Open runner-up, has gradually improved his final placing at his home major over the past few years.
He missed the cut in his first three attempts before a tied 27th in 2017 and tied 12th in 2018.
On Friday, the 28-year-old continued his impressive start to this year’s campaign with six birdies en route to a 67.
“I felt like I was a lot more stress-free,” said Fleetwood, whose last win was in Abu Dhabi in January 2018.
“I made two or three good par-saves, but I enjoy the challenge.
“It seemed like a much more scoreable morning, but the course doesn’t allow for many birdies so you have to be patient.
“My major performances haven’t been as good as the previous year. It’s been a quieter year, but with the potential to be great – I’ve been up there two or three times on the PGA Tour and not won.”