British Open 2019: J.B. Holmes, Shane Lowry share 36-hole lead at Royal Portrush

July 19, 2019

An Irishman and an American are leading the pack at the Open Championship, two major-less Englishmen are leading the chase, and a couple of major-winning stalwarts are within striking distance.

It’s setting up to be a wild (and windy) weekend in Northern Ireland.

J.B. Holmes got in early with a three-under 68 and Shane Lowry signed for a four-under 67 hours later at Royal Portrush on Friday; they’ll head to the weekend as the 36-hole leaders at eight under.

Among the stars likely going home is Rory McIlroy, in heartbreaking fashion. The homeland hero from Holywood battled back from a brutal opening 79 to shoot a six-under 65 on Friday, but barring a miracle his two-round tally will be one painful stroke shy of the cutline.

Just one off the lead are Tommy Fleetwood (67) and Lee Westwood (67). Fleetwood has been stamped as one of golf’s breakout stars in the last year, but he has yet to win on American soil and is still major-less. Also without a major title is Westwood. The 46-year-old has been the runner-up in three majors, and he has 18 top-10s in 81 starts.

“There’s a long way to go in this tournament,” said Westwood, who birdied four of the last seven and didn’t make a bogey. “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Holmes, who had a one-shot lead after Thursday’s first round, teed off in the morning and didn’t let up, making birdie on three of the first six. He turned in two-under 34 and added birdies on 12 and 13. He bogeyed 15 but made pars in for his 68 and clubhouse lead.

Teeing off nearly four hours later, Lowry, who years ago as an amateur won a North of Ireland title on this course, birdied his first three and turned in a five-under 31. He was one over on the back but his second straight 67 was enough to give him a share of the lead.

Lowry’s been in a similar spot before. At the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont he led by four after 54 holes, but he shot 76 in the final round and tied for second as Dustin Johnson hoisted the trophy. Although Lowry said on Friday that what happened at Oakmont was so long ago that it won’t affect him this weekend.

“I’m in a great position, but my God, have we got a long way to go,” Lowry said. “There’s two rounds of golf on this golf course against the best field in the world.”

Some of the best players in the world are within striking distance.

Justin Rose (67) is two off the lead at six under, and Jordan Spieth (67) and Brooks Koepka (69) lead a group at five under, just three back.

Patrick Reed (67), Jon Rahm (70), Matt Kuchar (68) and Tony Finau (70) are in a group at four under.

Tiger Woods played better than his dismal opening-day performance, but he bogeyed the final two and shot 70 to finish six over for the week, five off the cut line. Phil Mickelson (74) also missed the cut after finishing eight over through 36 holes. It’s the first time they’ve both missed the cut at a major in their careers, which spans 83 starts.

“It’s more frustrating than anything else because this is a major championship, and I love playing in these events,” Woods said. “I love the atmosphere. I love just the stress of playing in a major. And unfortunately, I’ve only had a chance to win one of them and was able to do it. But the other three I didn’t do very well.”