Ireland’s Shane Lowry survived a shaky back nine and grabbed a share of the 36-hole lead at The Open Championship on Friday.
Lowry, who grew up 180 miles from Royal Portrush, shot another 67 to match his first-round score. That left him at 8-under and even with J.B. Holmes, who shot 68 in the second round.
“I knew with the weather coming in, there’s going to be rain in the afternoon, I knew I needed to get off to a decent start anyway,” Lowry said of his 31 on the front nine. “To be out there doing it in front of the Irish people, it’s incredible.”
Lowry is not entirely new to the pressure of leading a major. He held the 54-hole lead in the U.S. Open at Oakmont with a third-round 65, only to become the first golfer since Payne Stewart (1998) to blow a lead of more than four shots in the final round.
Lee Westwood sat one shot off the lead with Tommy Fleetwood also at 7-under. Westwood was the Open Championship leader through 54 holes at Muirfield in 2013, when Phil Mickelson emerged with the Claret Jug.
Mickelson, who carded an 8-over total through two rounds, and Tiger Woods (6-over) are done for the tournament.
Without a single bogey in the second round, Westwood walked off the course Friday with only his second bogey-free round in 86 tries in The Open. But Westwood isn’t ready to start counting his shots toward a major title.
“There’s too much ground to cover before Sunday night. There’s a long way to go in this tournament,” he said. “I’ve never felt under that much pressure, to be honest. You lads write about it. I’ve always gone out and done my best. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Fleetwood sits a 7-under, his best score through two rounds of any major, thanks to four birdies on the back nine and six in his second round Friday.
Brooks Koepka was 2-under on Friday and is three shots back of the lead at 5-under along with Jordan Spieth, Andrew Putnam and Dylan Frittelli.
Woods started the back nine birdie-birdie but finished with bogeys on 17 and 18. Woods confessed he was travel-weary and ready to pack his bags Friday night.
“I just want some time off just to get away from it. I had a long trip to Thailand and then trying to get ready for this event, to play this event, it’s been a lot of travel, a lot of time in the air, a lot of moving around and different hotels and everything.
“I just want to go home.”
Local favorite Rory McIlroy wasn’t quite ready to tag out after a miserable first round, charging toward the cut line with a furious run of birdies in the second round.
Frittelli, from South Africa, spun out of a share of the lead with a horrific tee shot on 17 and more trouble on 18 to end double bogey-bogey. His group at 6-under is one shot behind Justin Rose, Justin Harding and Cameron Smith, who are tied for fifth.