We’re now just two rounds away from finding out who will become Champion Golfer of the Year 2019 after a fascinating Friday that saw low scores aplenty and big names heading home.
Only 73 men ultimately got inside the cut-line at +1 as some of golf’s biggest stars were vexed by the questions posed by Royal Portrush but those who remain can still dream of lifting the Claret Jug.
JB Holmes and Shane Lowry top the leaderboard at -8 but there are 47 players under par and everyone is looking to make the most of ‘moving day’ by positioning themselves for a Sunday charge.
It was a day that could go a long way to deciding the winner of The 148th Open, so here are six stories from Round 2 at Portrush.
Elementary, my dear Holmes
As a man from Kentucky, JB Holmes wouldn’t naturally have an affinity for Northern Ireland but he seems to have taken a real shine to the country this week.
His opening-day 66 was followed up by a well-crafted 68 – five birdies and two bogeys ultimately leaving him at -8 for the Championship.
That’s good enough for a share of the lead and a spot in the final group on Saturday, meaning he will know exactly where he stands as his rivals try to overhaul him.
Holmes’s best finish at The Open was when he came third at Royal Troon back in 2016 and he feels like Portrush is perfectly-suited to his style of golf as he looks to claim a first major this weekend.
“It's set up great for me. I felt good about it all week and I've been hitting it really good,” said the 37-year-old.
“I feel me and my caddie, Brian, have a good plan on the course – we've felt comfortable and we've executed the shots.
“I've always been able to play pretty good when the conditions have been windy and rough. You really have to be creative around a links golf course and you have to be prepared for anything.
“You have to roll with the punches and just accept what it is. Sometimes it's your week and sometimes it's not. So far, so good.”
Lowry’s having a party
Shane Lowry is playing a bit closer to his roots than Holmes this week and the Irishman admits he is certainly enjoying home advantage from the crowd.
A Thursday score of 67 had Lowry in second place but by the time his afternoon tee slot came around on Friday, he had plummeted down the leaderboard with the morning starters making hay in the sun.
Lowry was worth the wait though – birdieing the first three holes and then 5, 8 and 10 to storm into a two-stroke lead at -10.
The second half of the back-nine was more of a struggle as shots slipped away at 14 and 18 to bring him back to the pack but it was still a second consecutive 67 and the co-lead with Holmes.
“Obviously it could have been better – every day you play golf it could have been better but it could have been worse as well,” said Lowry.
“I've won big tournaments before – I've shot some good scores and I'm in a familiar place. I know the surroundings, I feel pretty comfortable here this week.
“I really don't think I’ve played in front of crowds like that before – it was incredible right from the first hole.
“You can't but smile, you can't but laugh how it is. There's no point trying to shy away from it – it's an incredible feeling.
“The nicest thing about it was I didn't have to go to the airport this week! It's nice to be able to get in my car and not have to pack my clothes and my coverall.”
English duo ready to shine
Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood are at different stages of their careers but both are chasing a maiden major this week.
Fleetwood looked imperious on Friday, finishing with a 67 to reach -7 and the Merseysider insists he is playing his best golf of the season.
His challenge can hardly be called a surprise but Westwood – who agonisingly lost in a play-off at Turnberry ten years ago – caused quite a stir.
The former world No.1 has rolled back the years with a consistent display to sit alongside Fleetwood and his experience could tell on the Dunluce Links.
It would be wise for Shane Lowry and JB Holmes to not look over their shoulder, as several major champions are stalking close behind.
That queue is headed by England’s Justin Rose, an Olympic champion, US Open winner and former world No.1 who finished T-2 at Carnoustie last year.
Rose is on -6 and looks to have barely broken sweat, while four-time major winner Brooks Koepka has declared himself disappointed with his own display.
The American is on -5 after a round of 69 on Friday and his recent major record is as intimidating as it gets with a finishing sequence of 1-2-1-2 from his last four.
2017 Champion Golfer Jordan Spieth briefly tied for the lead and went onto compile a four-under round to sit three back, while former Masters champion Patrick Reed sits at -4 alongside Jon Rahm.
Look a bit further behind and you’ll find Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Rickie Fowler, all waiting to make a charge.
McIlroy and Woods fall short
The damage was already done. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy knew they needed a near miracle to make the cut at The 148th Open after disastrous opening rounds.
Northern Ireland’s very own McIlroy fought bravely to try and make the weekend following his 79 on Thursday, but the 2014 Champion Golfer ultimately fell one shot short.
A brilliant five-under 65 saw him get back to +2 and he had chances to go even lower. It was not to be, though, meaning he will watch the rest of the action from the sidelines.
Meanwhile, Woods posted a one-under 70 earlier in the day to salvage something from his time in Country Antrim before admitting he simply didn’t play well enough over the two days.
They were not the only big names to miss out either, with 2013 Champion Golfer Phil Mickelson, US Open champion Gary Woodland and hometown favourite Darren Clarke also sent packing.
Lehman waves goodbye
If The 148th Open was to be Tom Lehman’s final appearance in golf’s oldest major, then the American enjoyed a fitting send-off down the 18th at Royal Portrush.
Lehman claimed the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1996, but the 60-year-old’s automatic exemption as a former Champion Golfer runs out this year.
As a result, Lehman was given the honour of hitting the opening tee shot to get the second round underway before being given a standing ovation as he walked the final hole of the Dunluce Links.
Whether it was his last Open is yet to seen, but nevertheless Lehman was overcome by the emotion of the occasion as he waved goodbye with his son as his caddie alongside him.
“It was more emotional than I thought it would be,” he said. “I did everything in my power not to start bawling walking down the 18th fairway. I didn't totally succeed but I mostly succeeded.”