The first half of the Friday draw is finishing up at the British Open. Tiger still has nine holes to make his move and several of the world’s best out ahead of him have shown it’s possible. The rain has changed the way the course is playing and Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, and Zach Johnson have taken advantage. We’ve got a Tiger back nine ahead to enjoy with your breakfast and morning routine, but here are three big things you missed overnight while you were sleeping.
Tiger Woods hit a ball directly into the crowd from close range
The start of Tiger’s round was a grind. After keeping driver in the bag all day on Thursday, he pulled it for the first time in this Open on No. 2 on Friday. And he promptly pumped one wayyyyy right into some impossible sidehill lie. From there, with the ball way above his feet, he tried some sky hook shot that went bad from the start and scooted right into the crowd.
All things considered, that went about as well as it possibly could. No one was seriously injured and Tiger’s ball ended up in a fine spot given how bad the shot went. He could not, however, get up and down in two from there and made his first bogey of the day.
Tiger backed up that bogey with a three-jack on the very next hole and was going the wrong way. He went from even-par to 2-over and was on the wrong side of the cut line. An MC would be a brutal disappointment given how well this course and these conditions suited Tiger at this point in his career. Fortunately, he got it right back with consecutive birdies, including this bomb on the 6th hole. This is gravy you can’t always expect.
The Cat remains even-par and needs to take advantage of the two back-nine par-5s to make his move to the first page of the leaderboard. He should finish up around 10 a.m. ET
We’ve got a Rory sighting at the top of the leaderboard. After going super aggressive and hitting lots of drivers on Thursday, the 2014 Open champion started with a 2-under 69. As we’ve seen with Rory over the last five years, so much depends on how a major starts for him. He wins when the scores are in double figures and after a positive start. He’s got two nice 69s now to set himself up for the weekend on the rota’s toughest course.
The rain maybe helped on Friday, too, as every single golf writer in the world tweeted — he plays his best and wins when it rains and gets soft. After the round, he disagreed with the notion that it made the course easier, saying Friday’s round was much harder to play for him than the burned out aggressive style on Thursday.
Rory also wins when the putter is at least competent and it was that and more throughout Friday morning. Even when things got dicey, it seemed to work out for Rory. I would not call this play out of a fairway pot bunker the wisest choice, but it worked out for him. The shot, which flew just over the lip of the bunker, put him on the wrong side and with a poor angle, but he got up-and-down for birdie at the par-5 14th.
Rory needs those red numbers on the par-5s if he’s going to win. He burned the edge at the 18th hole for a birdie that would have given him the solo clubhouse lead. But tap-in pars on that hole are always nice and he is clearly feeling it.
The rain came and the strikers took advantage
We’ve got a leaderboard that’s loaded with the best ballstrikers in the world. Tommy Fleetwood, who we last saw putting on one of the great displays ever at a U.S. Open, was back it on Friday morning. He hit every fairway and green on the back nine. The Englishman just never misses and has been one of the very best players in the world for two years now. The Friday morning round finished with Fleetwood in a tie for first at 5-under. The round was a 6-under 66 and the score of the championship so far.
Another ball striker, Zach Johnson, has also moved into a tie for the lead with Kisner and Fleetwood. ZJ already has a Claret Jug and the firm and fast conditions of this one makes the short-hitter a little longer and more competitive. Then the softer greens reward his kind of precision and we’re seeing it again with another round that’s likely to finish in the 60s.
The rain has changed the course significantly on Friday. Of course it’s still firm after almost a month-long drought, but the fairways are not running out like they have all week. So while that may make things easier in terms of predictability, it probably makes it harder once you leave the fairways. Carnoustie’s rough has played easy because it’s been so dry and burnt-out. The rains could make its notorious rough much stickier and penal now.
The rain is supposed to stop and the wind is supposed to pick up slightly for the second half of the draw. We’ll see how it impacts scores for the afternoon wave but we at least know a mid-60s number is out there. Here’s your leaderboard: