JB Holmes and Shane Lowry sit atop the pile heading into the weekend at The 148th Open after a fascinating Friday at Royal Portrush saw players make their move and notable names miss the cut.
Overnight leader Holmes carded a 68 as Lowry matched his opening-round 67 to set the pace at -8 and they will tee off together as the final group on Saturday.
They hold a one-stroke lead over English duo Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood – who both also shot 67 in the benign morning conditions – while Cameron Smith, Justin Harding and Justin Rose are at -6.
Irishman Lowry reached -10 at one stage but a pair of back-nine bogeys dented his round slightly, while veteran American Holmes is feeling the confidence flowing after a second impressive score.
“It's always great to get two. You can have that great round and then that day where everything goes right but it's nice to get two rounds in a row,” explained the 37-year-old.
“It shows a little consistency. And two days in a row I've hit the ball really well and putted well. So it's just been a really good start to the week for me.”
The best rounds of the day were the 65s shot by Harding, Kevin Streelman and a certain Rory McIlroy, although the 2014 Champion Golfer agonisingly missed the cut by one shot.
Sitting at +8 heading into Friday following a disastrous Round 1, the Northern Irishman had a huge mountain to climb but his surge up the leaderboard delighted fans at Portrush and became one of the stories of the day.
Two birdies in the opening nine holes set him up but it was on the back-nine when the round really came alive, as five birdies between the 10th and 16th – sandwiching a bogey at 13 – left him needing to shoot a three on one of the final two par-four holes to make the cut.
However, his efforts came up just short, as two pars saw him sign for a score of 65 and a total of +2 for the Championship – one stroke worse than the +1 required.
McIlroy was hardly the only man to fall foul of that cut-line, as 14 major champions won’t be back for the weekend, including the likes of Jason Day, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Remarkably, this is the 83rd major in which Woods and Mickelson have both competed and the first time that neither man has made the cut.
Tom Lehman was another to miss the cut in what could be his final Open – with his exemption for winning at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1996 expiring after this year – and having hit the opening tee shot this morning, the American was clearly emotional as he walked down the 18th fairway with his son Thomas Jr on the bag, to a huge ovation.
Two other men to enjoy rousing receptions were home favourites Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell but the pair enjoyed contrasting days as McDowell parred the 18th to make the cut at +1, while Clarke triple-bogeyed it to miss out on +3.
But 73 men will be here for the weekend and can now focus on positioning themselves when it comes to ‘moving day’.