Rory McIlroy has had his issues in the second round of tournaments in the past. Most recently, he shot a 78 in the second round of last week's Scottish Open, basically knocking himself out of contention.
But Friday at the 143rd British Open was a different story. The Northern Irishman shot a second consecutive six under par 66 to maintain the lead after two rounds at 12 under par. McIlroy is four shots ahead of American Dustin Johnson, who himself fashioned a seven under par 65 Friday. They'll be in Saturday's final pairing, teeing off on the first hole at 6:01 a.m. Eastern time Saturday.
There is a group of six golfers tied for third at six under par. Italy's Francesco Molinari will join McIlroy and Johnson. Rickie Fowler of the US is the only golfer in the field who finished in the top five places in both the Masters and US Open, this year's first two majors. American Ryan Moore shot a four under 68 Friday. They will be joined by Sergio Garcia of Spain, who is still looking for his first major championship. That trio will tee off at 5:50 a.m. Eastern.
Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa also fired a 68 to get to six under for the championship, along with fellow countryman and former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel. Another South African, George Coetzee, will be in the group that tees off at 5:39 a.m. Eastern.
The Open's defending champion, Phil Mickelson, got himself turned around Friday after a not-so-hot Thursday. "Lefty" shot a two under 70 and is at even par for the tournament. Mickelson will play on Saturday with fellow Americans Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley, starting at 4 a.m.
Tiger Woods did not enjoy his round Friday, shooting a five over 77. He's at two over for the championship, along with five-time former champion Tom Watson, just making the cut to play on the weekend and delighting British golf fans. Because of bad weather forecasted for Hoylake, tournament officials will send half the field off the tenth tee Saturday morning. Watson's group will start at 5:50 a.m., followed by Tiger's threesome at 6:01 a.m.
You can watch the third round of the British Open on ESPN, beginning at 7 a.m. Eastern time Saturday.