Lowry leads, McIlroy flirts with wonder

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by Justin Falconer at Royal Portrush

There was little luck, only excellent skill from the Irish in The Open on Friday when Shane Lowry took away part of the medal and Rory McIlroy came devastatingly close to performing a miracle.

Six birdies in his first ten holes – including birdies on 1, 2 and 3 – set up a sensational 4-under 67 for Lowry who brought him to an 8-under with the American JB Holmes (68) and set up a final group confrontation in the morning.

Earlier in the day, the Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood placed 67-and shy to shave the leaderboard only one blow from the leading duo to 7-under.

But the day was from 32-year-old Lowry, the Irishman who received some of the loudest roar on the first tee and he drove that momentum beautifully, dropping shots only at 14 and 18 to come back to the field .

"I think it was incredible from the first hole and even the crowd didn't seem that big around the third green, but the roar at the putt was incredible," Lowry said.

"When I put that well on 10, that long one on 10, it was just incredible.

"You can't help but laugh, you can't help but laugh about what it is like. It makes no sense to be scared of it. It's an incredible feeling. Like I said yesterday, it's an incredible feeling to get applause on every green, every tee-box. "

The Australian Cam Smith is in a share of the fifth with the former US Open champion Justin Rose and Justin Harding, the South African notching a 65, the equal lowest score of the day.

Americans Xander Schauffele and Kevin Streelman matched that number and will both have a start time on Saturday, but Friday 65, which thrilled the public, was recorded by the home hero Rory McIlroy.

After Thursday's opening-hole debacle, McIlroy started the day at 8 a.m. and needed a near-miracle to qualify for the weekend at The Open.

The 30-year-old needed a while to get going, but with birdies at three and seven he suddenly had something to play for.

McIlroy rattles three straight birdies after making the turn for trading strokes at 13 and 14 and with the cutting line out as 1-over, needed two birdies in his last four holes.

After he had smoked a ride down 15, his wedge found a green side pot bunker, McIlroy almost shut himself out there before dropping a 10-legged bird pot on the daunting par-3 16th

He leaked his tee-shot right on the almost-passable par-4 17th and had another ten feet for birdie but couldn't convert.

And with thousands of local fans cheering every move, McIlroy & # 39; s second shot dripped into the final hole of the playing surface, effectively ending his gallant load.

McIlroy & # 39; s 65 saw him miss the cut with just one, a devastating result after the opening of the first four-fold bogey and closing triple of yesterday.

"Today was probably one of the nicest rounds of golf I have ever played," said an emotional McIlroy after his round.

"To have so many people behind me, to support me, to applaud my name, this meant the world to me."

Further up in the rankings, American great champions Jordan Spieth (67) and Brooks Koepka (69) are beautifully 5-under before the tournament, alongside Andrew Putnam and last week's PGA Tour winner Dylan Fratelli

Tiger Woods (70) and Phil Mickelson (74) both missed the cut in the same big championship for the first time in their career. This week was the 83rd major with both players in the same field.

The other big names on the next flight home include Australians Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, as well as Gary Woodland, Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama and Portrush resident Darren Clarke, who heartwarmingly pushed his last hole three times.

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