Australia’s Cameron Smith stepped confidently into the spotlight vacated by Tiger Woods as Rory McIlroy remained firmly in contention in the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
After an emotional Woods made an early exit from almost certainly his last competitive appearance on the Old Course, Smith carded a flawless 64 for a 13-under-par halfway total of 131.
That surpassed the previous best for an Open at St Andrews – set by Nick Faldo and Greg Norman in 1990 and matched by Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 – by a shot and gave Smith a two-shot lead over Cameron Young, with McIlroy and Ryder Cup team-mate Viktor Hovland a shot further back.
Smith birdied his first three holes, picked up three more around the turn and then holed from 60 feet for an eagle on the 14th to raise the prospect of equalling the lowest round in men’s major history, Branden Grace’s 62 at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
And although he was unable to make any further gains, the 28-year-old from Brisbane still occupied top spot on a leaderboard packed with world-class players.
“That was pretty cool out there,” a typically understated Smith said. ” A lot of things went right but to do it here was awesome.”
Young added a 69 to his opening 64, while McIlroy found himself six off the pace after covering the front nine in 35, but started for home with three birdies in a row and picked up another on the 17th to return a 68 marred only by a three-putt par on the last.
Shot of the day
A hole-out eagle for Viktor Hovland!
It's the first eagle of the week on No. 15.
Hovland is now T3, 4 shots back. pic.twitter.com/jXkS6N1wm6
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 15, 2022
Norway’s Hovland was having a mixed back nine, which included two birdies, two bogeys and a par when he reached the 455-yard 16th. Having driven into the right rough he was faced with a 139-yard approach but landed it perfectly, took a couple of hops forward before rolling into the hole for an eagle two – the first at the 16th this week – which boosted him to nine under.
Round of the day
Cameron Smith – 64
Different day. Different Cameron. Same result. Smith birdied his first three holes, picked up three more around the turn and then holed from 60 feet for an eagle on the 14th to raise the prospect of equalling the lowest round in men’s major history, Branden Grace’s 62 at Royal Birkdale in 2017. That he had to settle for a 64, a score American Cameron Young had posted to take the first-round lead, after four successive pars coming home was no great disappointment as it gave him a two-stroke lead heading into the weekend.
Tweet of the day
Although I am disappointed to be heading home, I had an incredible week at St Andrews celebrating 150 years of history and the game we love. I want to thank this place for all the memories it has given me, and to the fans today for having the walk up 18 be added to that list. pic.twitter.com/VHD93MfeSl
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) July 15, 2022
Statistic of the day
The last two times Rory McIlroy was 10 under or better through two rounds of a major championship he won (2011 US Open and 2014 Open).
The 495-yard par-four 17th played as the toughest hole, yielding just six birdies all day, with 42 bogeys, eight double-bogeys and one triple-bogey for a scoring average of 4.35.
The 570-yard par five fifth: There were four eagles, 74 birdies, just 13 bogeys and nothing worse, for a scoring average of 4.56.
Selected tee times
10.30am: Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau
11.15am: Justin Thomas, Jason Kokrak
1.45pm: Jordan Spieth, Thriston Lawrence
2.50pm: Min Woo Lee, Matt Fitzpatrick
3.35pm: Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson
3.45pm: Rory McIlroy, Victor Hovland
3.55pm: Cameron Young, Cameron Smith
Mostly sunny, cloud increasing late on Saturday afternoon. Winds will be up to 10mph, with gusts between 15mph and 20mph in the afternoon.