Friday at The Open whether two of golf’s greatest players could make the cut after horrific first rounds, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The second round wasn’t really about who were making moves at the top of the leaderboard not was it necessarily about who will have the lead at the halfway stage
Friday at Royal Portrush was all about Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to perform a miracle.
Neither managed to do so, with Woods looking frail and battered by the end of his second round, while McIlroy’s emotionally charged mission to get to the magical 1-over par score ended with two pars and a lump in the throat during an touching post-round television interview.
Both gave it a fair go, especially Tiger’s one-time heir apparent, who would have made the cut if he didn’t bogey the par three 13th. He had probably hit that green a 100 times before during previous rounds at his beloved Portrush, but that bogey and a missed green into the 18th green derailed his chances of winning The Open at one of his favourite venues.
Woods’ back just didn’t want to play ball in the cold Irish air. But he also came into championship undercooked, having only played 10 rounds of golf since his stunning victory at the Masters in April. Back then it looked like the 15-time Major winner was back to his best, and his health problems a thing of the past. But now we fear that Tiger’s appearances would be limited to big tournaments such as the Majors, the WGCs and the Players’ Championship. Maybe even only be just the four big ones in a couple of years.
McIlroy was tipped for greatness early in his career and the man who will take over the mantel as the best player in the world when Woods finally packs away his clubs. But, as Woods again contemplates his future, the now 30-year McIlroy hasn’t yet lived up to that billing.
McIlroy is one of four players – along with Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Jordan Speith – to win three majors before the age of 25. But after his fourth Major in 2014 he hasn’t been able to add another one to his CV, despite being in contention on more than a few occasions.
The two rounds at the 2019 Open basically summed up his run in Majors over the last five years. There was the rather naïve mistake that led to the quadruple bogey on the first hole, which ballooned his score to 79 on Thursday. And then there was the fearless display of power and precision during his 65 on Friday.
Rory has carved out a wonderful career for himself. A career that most pros would gladly take with both hands. But there is a sense of underachievement when it comes to the Northern Irishman. McIlroy isn’t most pros. The talent certainly doesn’t match up with the Ws.
He has won some big tournaments since that 2014 win at the PGA Championship, but has also looked a mess when in contention in the final round of a Major. He tends to go in his shell and seems to play within himself when the heat is on.
This is very different to how he started his career as a dashing shot-maker, who hit it long and wasn’t afraid of any pin position. He reminded everyone of Tiger Woods.
On Friday we saw the best of McIlroy, the fearless golfer who can attack a course like few others in history. The McIlroy who makes those clutch putts when the heat is on.
It’s that McIlroy which he needs to rediscover when in contention at the Majors. It’s the only one who can break that Major duck, which is now going to stretch into its sixth year.
We don’t know how much more we are going to see of the ‘Big Cat’ over the next few years. It’s time that the heir apparent finally takes over the mantel and play to his true potential and purpose.