While Rory McIlroy headed out on what turned out to be a far less freaky Friday than usual, the rest of the home challenge had some catching up to do. Scotland’s Marc Warren came home in four under par late in the day for a 68 to be five under and inside The Open’s top 10 but England’s finest were on a face-saving exercise.
On Thursday they were upstaged by a 24-year-old amateur. Ashley Chesters, from Hawkstone Park in Shropshire, scored a 70 to be the leading Englishman on the opening day.
Normal service was resumed today but it took a couple of moments of brilliance to get the hottest player in the world entering The Open headed in the right direction.
Justin Rose, who arrived at Hoylake after winning his last two tournaments, battled the elements in the morning to post a 70 and be two under par. The Scottish Open champion was joined on that mark by David Howell, who hit the first shot of the championship on Thursday and today finished in a tidy manner by birdieing each of the last three holes.
Being in the late-then-early half of the draw, Rose undoubtedly got unlucky with the draw. At least there were no panics about having the wrong driver in his bag, as occurred at the start of his first round, but nothing much happened for the 2013 US Open champion until he reached the turn.
After saving par with a fine 15-footer on the eighth, Rose played a delightful chip-and-run at the ninth from 60 feet that found the cup for a birdie. He then repeated the feat with an almost identical shot at the 10th, this time for eagle. A turning point, perhaps.
“If I go on to win, that little stretch will be for sure,” he said. “But what it’s done right now is find me an opportunity over the weekend.”
That he did not quite kick on as he might have hoped was largely influenced by the strengthening wind. “We had an hour or so where I felt like we were just hanging on,” Rose said.
Inevitably, as he approached the clubhouse, the wind started to die down. “Whenever you come off the course, it feels calmer than when you had to play,” he said. Such are the vagaries of links golf and it may end up neutralising the boost he gained with his recent victories.
“You have some positives and confidence but that only comes into effect on Sunday,” he said. “There is so much work to do before you get into the heat of battle on Sunday.” As McIlroy continued collecting birdies in the afternoon, Rose’s task got ever tougher over the weekend.
Just being around for the last 36 holes was a question concerning some of Rose’s compatriots. Luke Donald birdied the last hole for a second 73 to make the cut at two over par, while Paul Casey birdied two of the last three to be one over.
But Ian Poulter, after a 74, and Lee Westwood, who only claimed one birdie in a 76, missed out by one shot on three over par. For Westwood, it was all in stark contrast to the serene progress that had the Worksop man leading the field after three rounds at Muirfield last year.
Chesters was also at three over so missed out not only on making the cut but claiming the silver medal as the leading amateur. The prize is only awarded to a player who completes all 72 holes and the European Amateur champion was the only contender who came close to playing on.
Heading out on the Hoylake links in the middle of the day with the wind still blowing for all its worth, Chesters slumped to an outward 41, which included a run of four bogeys in a row. But there was the thrill of holing two giant putts at the 15th and 17th holes and some memories to treasure once he heads to the professional game.
Leaderboard: Second-round scores
(GB & Ire unless stated)
132 R McIlroy 66 66
136 D Johnson (US) 71 65
138 F Molinari (It) 68 70, C Schwartzel (SA) 71 67, R Fowler (US) 69 69, R Moore (US) 70 68, S Garcia (Sp) 68 70, L Oosthuizen (SA) 70 68
139 J Furyk (US) 68 71, G Coetzee (SA) 70 69, M Warren 71 68
140 R Karlsson (Swe) 69 71, J Walker (US) 69 71, V Dubisson (Fr) 74 66
141 A Scott 68 73, M Leishman (both Aus) 69 72, E Molinari (It) 68 73, T Bjorn (Den) 70 71
142 J Rose 72 70, B Haas (US) 70 72, D Howell 72 70, M Manassero (It) 67 75, S Gallacher (Scot) 70 72
143 S Lowry 68 75, B-h An (S Kor) 72 71, B Grace (SA) 71 72, H Matsuyama (Japan) 69 74, G McDowell 74 69, D Hearn (Can) 70 73, K Broberg (Swe) 70 73
144 DA Points 75 69, J Dufner 70 74, P Mickelson 74 79 K Bradley 73 71, M Kuchar 73 71, G Woodland (all US) 75 69, T Jaidee (Thai) 72 72, C Rodgers 73 71, T Jaidee 72 72, K Aphibarnrat (both Thai) 72 72, D Clarke 72 72, B Martin 71 73, G Bourdy (Fr) 75 69
145 C Wood 75 70, J Senden 71 74, M Jones (both Aus) 71 74, A Cabrera (Arg) 76 69, M Kaymer (Ger) 73 72, B Hurley III 73 72, K Stadler 73 72, R Palmer 74 71, B Harman 72 73, C Kirk 71 74, B Koepka (all US) 68 77, P Casey 74 71, H Stenson (Swe) 72 73