scheduled tribe. ANDREWES, Scotland (AP) – Rory McIlroy walked into the void left by Tiger Woods’ departure at the British Open, catching a bunker shot for Eagle and revealing the gallery at St Andrews at every turn on Saturday when he finished. Nearly eight years without a major went by.
Still to come is another round on a stage he shares with Norwegian star Viktor Hovland. Each of them posted 6-under 66, building a four-shot cushion avoiding the blunders that sent so many contenders in the wrong direction.
Cameron Smith, who started with a two-shot lead, double bogeyed the 13th hole when he tried to play a bowled with his feet in the pot bunker. Cameron Young went over the 16th green and then went back to the other side for a double bogey on the 16th hole.
Dustin Johnson fell behind the green and into a bunker and six shots.
McIlroy and Hovland, who were at 16-under 200, had no such trouble on Saturday.
Hovland took the lead on the front nine, catching a pair of 40-foot putts on his way for four straight birdies. McIlroy finally caught her hide out A pot bunker for the eagle on the 10th hole, about 80 feet away, set off a roar that could be heard all the way back to the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse.
McIlroy had given Woods his hat only the day before as he began his second round and Woods was on track to miss the cut, crossing Swilcon Bridge for what might be the last time. The R&A sets the tee times so they can pass each other.
Woods stands alone in playing the game, although McIlroy is the most popular worldwide, and it seemed – on the first tee when McIlroy was introduced, to every birdie, and when he first played with a birdie. Took the lead 14th.
“I love that I have so much support,” McElroy said. “But at the same time, I need to try to be in my own little world and play a good round of golf. Hopefully, that’s enough.”
His only mistake was going rough on the left and over the 17th green, across the road and near the stone wall. He played a safe pitch on the green and a two-put for the bogey.
Hovland, free of swamps for the round, showed some of its magic on the 17th by removing the dirt path from the hill to a height of about 5 feet, just off the road.
At 24, after an illustrious amateur career at Oklahoma State, Howland already has six wins around the world, including the US Amateur title at Pebble Beach.
It’s his first big moment in a Major, and he voiced the task. Hovland also saw – and heard – what would happen against Sunday.
“I get a couple in there,” he said of such heavy cheers toward McIlroy. “I’m probably an underdog, but I don’t mind. Hopefully we can push ourselves tomorrow.”
Smith missed a short birdie on the 18th and scored 73. His biggest mistake was not to bring the ball back into play on the 13th, but to try to push the ball and go to difficult places. He also made three puts from 30 feet to start his round and made only two birdies.
Young, the PGA Tour rookie who completed a shot from the playoffs at the PGA Championship two months earlier, had 71.
Masters champion Scotty Scheffler was lurking after 69. He missed a 10-foot birdie opportunity on the 16th and then a three-putt for the bogey in the 17th. Schaeffler, who was one shot behind at the US Open, scored 69 and was five behind with Si Woo Kim (67).
Johnson also went within three shots to a bogey on the 13th and another par-5 on the 14th, where his long eagle putt went up a hill, across the green and into a pot bunker. He had to scramble for the bogie instead of the birdie. He dropped two more shots coming for 71 and was six behind.
McIlroy last won a major in 2014 at the PGA Championship in Valhalla. He would love nothing more than to win at the house of golf on the Old Course, where Jack Nicklaus once said that a player’s career would not be complete without winning the Claret Jug at St Andrews.
“Every part of my game has felt good this week,” McIlroy said. “I just have to continue this for another day.”
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