St Andrews (United Kingdom) (AFP) -
Australia's Cameron Smith leads the 150th British Open at the halfway stage after a superb second round of 64 on Friday left him on 13 under par for the tournament, while Cameron Young and Rory McIlroy lurk just behind but an emotional Tiger Woods failed to make the weekend.
Smith, the world number six with the trademark mullet, followed an opening 67 with an eight-under-par second round to lead by two strokes from Young, the 25-year-old New Yorker.
Brisbane-native Smith's round on Friday featured six birdies -- including at each of the first three holes -- an eagle at the par-five 14th, and no dropped shots.
His halfway total of 131 is the lowest ever 36-hole score in an Open at St Andrews.
'It's obviously a really good spot to be in. I feel like I've been in this spot a lot over the past couple of years, and things just haven't quite gone my way yet,' said Smith, who won the Players Championship in March.
'I've just got to be really patient over the weekend. I think the golf course is going to get a lot harder and a lot faster. So just be patient and make good putts.'
Young had led by two overnight after opening with a 64 of his own and followed that with a 69 to sit at 11-under, ensuring he will go out in the final pairing on Saturday.
But there is a sense in St Andrews that the main threat to Smith may come from McIlroy, who built on his opening round of 66 with a 68 and is on 10-under.
The favourite coming into the week, McIlroy produced six birdies after going out in fine conditions on Friday afternoon, with three in successive holes at the start of his inward nine.
- 'I've got the game' -
He will feel he now has a platform to go on and claim a second Claret Jug following his 2014 victory at Hoylake.
'I know I've got the game. That's all I need. I just need to go out and play my game and play my golf over the next two days and that's all I can do,' McIlroy said.
Norway's Viktor Hovland also sits at 10-under, while former world number one Dustin Johnson shot a 67 and is nine-under.
Johnson, the two-time major winner who quit the PGA Tour last month to join the controversial Saudi-backed LIV series, will be hoping to avoid any repeat of the last Open at St Andrews in 2015.
Then he led at the halfway stage on 10-under but a third-round 75 ended his hopes of victory.
'To be honest, I don't even remember the third round from seven years ago. I've played a lot of golf since then, and that was a long time ago,' he insisted.
World number one Scottie Scheffler and England's Tyrrell Hatton, who played together, both moved onto eight-under at the halfway stage.
Masters champion Scheffler recorded a second consecutive 68 while Hatton enjoyed a bogey-free 66 on Friday.
- Tears for Tiger -
The last player to win the Masters and British Open in the same year was Woods in 2005.
That was the year of his second Open triumph in St Andrews and the 46-year-old was determined to be present this week after recovering from severe leg injuries in a car crash last year.
However, he shot a six-over-par 78 in a grim first round that began with him going into the Swilcan Burn at the first hole.
A 75 on Friday, featuring a double-bogey at 16, represented an improvement, but at nine-over he will not be returning for the weekend, and possibly not to another Open here.
The emotion got to Woods, who appeared to wipe away tears as he saluted adoring crowds on his walk up the 18th fairway.
'I've been lucky enough and fortunate enough to have won this twice here, and it felt very emotional, just because I just don't know what my health is going to be like,' Woods said.
'I feel like I will be able to play future British Opens, but I don't know if I'll be able to play that long enough (until) it comes back around here.'
Last year's champion Collin Morikawa, at one-over, also missed the cut which was set to fall at even par.
Other notable names who will not return for the weekend include Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Zach Johnson, who won the last Open at St Andrews in 2015.