Hoylake: Rory McIlroy exorcised his Friday demons in style as Tiger Woods almost paid the ultimate price for abandoning the tactics which previously brought him victory at Royal Liverpool in the second round of the 143rd Open Championship.
Woods famously used his driver just once in 72 holes on his way to a third Open title in 2006 and was similarly circumspect in an opening 69 on Thursday.
However, wayward drives on the first two holes and an even worse one out of bounds on the 17th meant the 14-time Major winner had to birdie the 18th — his only birdie of the day — just to be sure of making the halfway cut. The cut fell at 146.
A round of 77 left Woods 14 shots adrift of halfway leader McIlroy, who carded a second consecutive 66 to finish 12-under par, matching Woods’ halfway total of 132 in 2006.
McIlroy has made an unfortunate habit of following good rounds on Thursday with bad ones on Friday in 2014, the latest example being scores of 64 and 78 in the Scottish Open last week.
It is the first time McIlroy has led at halfway in a Major since the 2011 US Open, when he went on to win his first Major by eight shots after rewriting the record books at Congressional.
And by getting the benefit of the best conditions with early-late tee times it made amends for leading the 2010 Open at St Andrews with an opening 63 only to follow it with an 80 in atrocious conditions.
McIlroy could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when he bogeyed the first hole after overshooting the green, but with the wind dropping he regained the lead with a two-putt birdie on the fifth and moved two ahead with another birdie on the sixth.
Even the distraction of a pheasant wandering across the eighth green as he lined up another birdie putt failed to prevent McIlroy from picking up another shot, while he also birdied the 10th before surprisingly missing from four feet on the 11th.
The Northern Irishman did then hole from that distance on the 15th after a superb tee shot and a drive of almost 400 yards on the 17th set up another, while he pitched to four feet on the last to end in style.
In contrast, Woods pulled his opening drive so badly that it ended in thick rough to the left of the fairway on the adjacent 18th, from where he missed the green with his approach and hacked his third shot onto the green and off the other side.
From there he chipped on and two-putted for a double bogey, while his drive on the second also found the rough and his approach ran over the back of the green to lead to a bogey.
A run of 14 straight pars was then followed by a wild drive out of bounds on the 17th to run up a triple-bogey seven which suddenly dropped him outside the cut line and it took typical determination to birdie the last and make the weekend.
On the other hand, the lure of walking the 18th fairway once again and see the Indian flag fluttering kept him going before an ailing Anirban Lahiri bowed out with a second straight three-over 75. The 27-year-old Lahiri had been suffering from fever since Monday.
“If it was any other tournament, I may have pulled out,” said Lahiri.
Lahiri dropped three bogeys and one double bogey but managed to sink two birdies, including one on the last hole.
The Indian, who has won once this season and posted three more top-10s on the Asian Tour, said he wasn’t sure if he would conclude his round under the steamy conditions.
Lahiri finished with justified reward in the form of a birdie on the 18th to card a second successive 75 but his total of 150 was not enough to keep him on for the weekend. (Agencies)