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No need to freak out as McIlroy has Friday feeling . . .

Here are some historical haverings.

Not even the sudden arrival of a wobbling pheasant on to  the fairway could halt Rory McIlroy's momentum yesterday. Picture: Reuters
Not even the sudden arrival of a wobbling pheasant on to the fairway could halt Rory McIlroy's momentum yesterday. Picture: Reuters

Did you know that for the first few years after its inception in 1869, they used to race horses on the Royal Liverpool turf in addition to thundering away with golf clubs? Of course you did. Some of you more venerable Herald readers probably attended a meeting there back in ye day.

Here in 2014, Rory McIlroy has turned the 143rd Open into something of a one-horse race. There are a few thoroughbreds trotting on behind him but, on a dazzling day in which a timid Tiger flirted with an early exit from the championship, it was Rory who was roaring.

With his early-then-late tee-times over the first two rounds - those in the second half of the draw got the toughest of the conditions on both days and Hoylake was playing roughly three shots easier after lunch than before it yesterday - McIlroy made the most of his good fortune and went galloping round the links in a shimmering six-under 66 for the second day running. You could say it was a case of neigh bother?

His 12-under aggregate left him four shots clear of Dustin Johnson, who came thundering up on the rails in the lengthening shadows of the evening with a sparkling 65. It is far from over, of course, and this race has a long way to run but with his nose in front, a majestic McIlroy looked unstoppable. The pheasant that waddled into his line as he prepared to putt for birdie on the eighth green was lucky it wasn't splattered into oblivion by his momentum.

His previous two majors wins, the 2011 US Open and the 2012 US PGA Championship, were achieved by the massive margin of eight shots and already the salivating pundits and punters are drooling at the prospect of another procession.

Most folk were waiting curiously to see if this would be another of, what has become known in global gofing circles, as McIlroy's 'Freaky Friday'. The doom-mongers would be left disappointed. Instead it became a Friday of fulfilment for the 25-year-old as he followed up his opening six-under card with another profitable journey down route 66.

"I didn't have that [freaky Friday]in my head at all," added McIlroy, who birdied three of the four par-5s as he seized the big opportunities. "This was just another solid round."

A shaky start, with a bogey on the first, prompted much oohing and ahhing, but McIlroy shrugged it off and hammered out the dents with a rousing repair job. After a two-putt birdie from 40-feet on the par-5 fifth, McIlroy trundled in a seven-footer on the next for another gain. It was a telling moment. "When that went in I thought, 'yeah, this feels good'."

He had that Friday feeling and the birdies continued to come. Shots were picked up at the eighth and the 10th and he had good birdie chances at the 11th and the 12th. The 15th saw a beautifully flighted iron drop in to within three feet and he rolled in birdie putts at 17 and 18 to finish with a flourish. He was in the zone, all right, and with a big mental hurdle now crossed he will be a hard man to catch on this scintillating form.

The weather was predicted to turn for today's third round, and R&A officials have even gone to the lengths of having a two-tee start for the first time in history to combat the meteorological menace. Whatever Mother Nature throws down, McIlroy is ready for the challenge.

"I won't mind what it is," he said with eager anticipation before revealing this sense of serenity that he has found. "People call it the zone. It's just a state of mind where you think clearly. Everything seems to be on the right track. Whenever you play this well, you always wonder how you've played so badly. It's a fickle game."

It was 50 years ago that those mop-topped Merseysiders The Beatles stormed America. Now there's a fab four from the other side of the Atlantic making a move here at Royal Liverpool. They weren't all swinging in the 60s but Johnson (65), Ryan Moore (68), Rickie Fowler (69) and Jim Furyk (71) all moved up the hit parade and into the top-10. Johnson's super card was burnished by a magnificent seven birdies as he led the chasing pack on 136 while Moore covered his last 11 holes in six-under to barge into the picture alongside Fowler and a posse on six-under 138s.

That gathering includes Francesco Molinari and Sergio Garcia who holed his second shot on the second - just as he did in 2006 - for an eagle in an eventful 70. The scrambling start from the Spaniard was Seve-esque. "I began 5-2-5 . . . I would've preferred it to be 4-3-3," he said with a wry smile.

It would have been Nelson Mandela's 96th birthday yesterday. A slightly lesser known South African, meanwhile, was celebrating 28 years on this spinning sod of earth and George Coetzee toasted the day of his own birth with a three-under 69 in the toughest of the morning conditions to claw his way to a five-under tally.

Charl Schwartzel, birdied his last three holes in a 67 to finish at six under while another South African, Louis Oosthuizen, joined him on that score with a 68. In this international leaderboard, Marc Warren plonked a saltire into the top 10 late in the evening with a 68 for 139.

Phil Mickelson made the weekend on level par but for Tiger Woods the cut mark hovered a bit too close for comfort after a ghastly 77 that was his worst Open score since he had an 81 at Muirfield in 2002.

From the moment he hoiked his opening tee-shot into the rough down the adjacent 18th and racked up a double-bogey, the three-time Open champion was always toiling. His driving throughout was as erratic as a one-armed cabbie with an itchy oxster and when he triple bogeyed the 17th, he looked dead and buried. Woods never gives up though. A nasty chip over the bunker was followed by a brave eight-footer for birdie and he made the mark on the two-over limit.

"Luckily I've got two rounds to go and hopefully I can do something like Paul did in 1999," he said as he recalled Paul Lawrie's Open win where the Scot came back from 10 behind on the final day. Woods is 14 shots off the pace. With McIlroy in such miraculous form, though, Tiger was left clutching at miracles.

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