ameron Smith holds the Open lead at the halfway mark after a sensational second round saw the Australian two strokes clear.
Six birdies came for Smith in his first ten holes, every facet of his game shot, before an eagle on the par five 14th set up a round 64 that left him at 13 under heading into the weekend at St Andrews . It was a performance that earned him the 36-hole Open Championship record at the Home of Golf, a shot better than Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Louis Oosthuizen have managed in the past.
Many thought Smith was heading for the week. He already has two victories to his name in 2022, the Players and the Tournament of Champions, and the Aussie is certainly used to competing on dry, baked golf courses.
“It was pretty cool there,” Smith said. “A lot of things went well, but to do it here was awesome.”
He will be joined in the final group on Saturday by Cameron Young, who led after the first 18 holes and kept the pace with a round 69 as he chases a stunning first Open of his career.
Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland are a dime a step further in a share of third, the Northern Irishman still in search of a first major title in eight years. He started his inning slowly but came home in 33 to stay within three strokes of the lead.
“I played well coming in, I stuck to my game plan,” McIlroy said. “I make holes and walk away thinking I could have been a bit better, but I’m in a great position for the weekend.”
His playing partner Xander Schauffele, the fittest man in golf after his recent wins on both sides of the Atlantic, had its ups and downs on Friday and sits just inside the top 20 on five under .
With the morning rain falling on the Old Course and softening the layout, many of the first wave of starters made their way well through the field. Adam Scott’s 65 took him to seven under, joined on that score by Patrick Cantlay, while US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick was among those who shot further.
Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth both have work to do, nine shots off the lead, while Claret Jug’s Collin Morikawa defense failed to qualify on the weekend as he failed to make the cut.
So did Tiger Woods, who received an incredible welcome as he descended the 18th fairway, resulting in a rarely seen outpouring of emotion from the 15-time major champion. He admitted after the round that he might not have the opportunity to play at St Andrews again.