Jordan Spieth battled a multitude of miscues on Friday at The Open, having to rely heavily on the flat stick to piece together a 4-under 67.
By Bailey Mosier
"This is game No. 20. On the tee from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy."
Emotions in check, a calm, cool and the collective crowd favorite McIlroy gives a smile and tip of the cap to the ladies and lads packed into the grandstands on the first tee. It's 10:09 a.m. local time on a Thursday. A fog of electricity and excitement envelops them all.
McIlroy sticks a peg in the ground. Three-wood in hand, he takes two slow, methodical practice swings. He picks his line and addresses the ball.
He lashes at it. The ball soars off the club face and splits the fairway. It settles left center. It's a short iron onto the green, two putts for par and McIlroy's coronation is off to a great start. The 30-year-old who grew up an hour away is on his way to fulfilling the destiny so many people want for him. So many people believe is rightfully his.
McIlroy is on his way to winning The 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
That's the way it was always supposed to go. But unless you just woke up from a Guiness and Bushmills bender, you know that's not how things transpired.
Instead, McIlroy's chances expired with a single swing of the club. His opening tee shot on Thursday sailed OB, leading to a quadruple-bogey 8 en route to a round of 79.
Fast-forward to Friday. The scene described above is exactly how McIlroy played the first hole.
But it was too little too late for the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year. The enormity of the moment and the week no longer weighing on him, McIlroy played the Dunluce Links with the freedom of the 61-shooting 16-year-old.
McIlroy's Friday was near-flawless, as he nearly played his way inside the cut line. He made the turn in 2 under, before carding three birdies in a row on Nos. 10-12. He then dropped a shot at the par-3 13th after sending his tee shot into the short, right bunker. It was a birdie at 14 when he knocked it to 18 feet from nearly 200 yards, then sank the putt. After blistering a drive at 15, his wedge from 84 yards carried too far