PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — This is what the Open Championship, the British Open, is supposed to be: Birdies and bogeys, big names and no-names, and halfway through practically everybody in contention.
Three who are not in contention are Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, all of whom missed the cut of 1-over 143. Woods was five shots back of the cut despite a second-round 70 on Friday. Mickelson was seven back after a 74. McIlroy missed by a shot after a 65. He had a 35-foot birdie attempt at 18 that didn’t come close and had missed a one-foot putt in the first round.
The 36-hole lead of the 148th Open, the first played in Northern Ireland since 68 years ago, was shared by a couple of literal heavyweights, 220-pound Shane Lowry of Clara, County Offaly, Ireland, and 195-pound J.B Holmes of Campbellsville, Kentucky, U.S.A.
They are at 8-under-par 134, Lowry after shooting a 4-under-par 67 at the rolling Dunluce Links of Royal Portrush, Holmes after his 68.
One behind at 135 are Tommy Fleetwood, the Englishman who finished second by a shot to Brooks Koepka in the 2018 U.S Open at Shinnecock Hills (Yes, Koepka’s very much in contention here) and 46-year-old Lee Westwood of England. Each shot 67.
Three shots back is Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open in 2017 and ’18, and the PGA Championship in ’18 and ’19 (at Bethpage Black). Also three back is Jordan Spieth, who’s won a Masters, U.S. Open and two years ago at Royal Birkdale a British Open, his last tournament win. Koepka had a 69, Spieth a 67.
“I always get pumped up for major championships,” Spieth said. “Clearly I try to peak for majors. And then this style of golf I always — I’ve always found to fit my game pretty well.”
It’s fitting the games of Lowry, Holmes and for a while Dylan Frittelli, who got into the tournament by winning the PGA Tour's John Deere last Sunday. Frittelli was at 8 under through 16 holes, tied for first, but finished double-bogey, bogey for 69-137.
Lowry, runner-up in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, not only had to battle the rest of the field but the voice of a commentator he heard on a TV set in a tented village off the 17th hole.
“Just on my backswing I could hear, ‘He’s got 295 to the top of the hill,’ and that put me off," said Lowry. "I got lucky and made par.”
Holmes was third in the 2016 Open at Troon in Scotland. “I’ve always been able to play pretty good when the conditions have been windy and rough,” he said. “You really have to be creative around links golf. You have to be prepared for anything.”
Spieth was prepared to play well, and through the four-hole stretch from five through eight he went 5 under — an eagle and three birdies.
Westwood, in his 25th Open, has won tournaments on five continents but never a major. He has two seconds in the Masters and a second in the 2010 British Open,
“I literally don’t care anymore,” he said when asked about his chances.
Darren Clarke, who lives in Portrush and hit the first tee ball of the Open, cared deeply about playing all four rounds. But he triple-bogeyed the 18th hole, costing him the opportunity.
Koepka said his problem was on the greens, or at least the approach shots that left him far from the cup.
“I didn’t make a putt all week” Koepka said. “I need to figure it out.”