Not even the cold Scottish rain could damper a dominant tee-to-green performance from Rory McIlroy on Friday at The Renaissance Club. Giving himself a realistic birdie chance on seemingly every hole, the Northern Irishman surged ahead at the 2023 Scottish Open before late mistakes dropped him to 10 under at the halfway point in North Berwick and one clear of Tom Kim and Tyrrell Hatton.
McIlroy’s second 18 on the Tom Doak redesign was inherently different from his first. Consistently holing putts with pace Thursday, McIlroy’s wand would disappoint in his second stroll around the par 70. Missing five birdie bids from inside 10 feet on his opening nine, the 34-year-old ultimately turned in 32.
Some conviction trickled into his stroke on the homeward half and additional birdie conversions followed, namely an 18-foot effort from off the green on the downhill par-3 14th. However, a dropped shot on the following par 3 and the lack of scoring on either par 5 on the back nine means McIlroy’s lead will be just one as miserable weather and high winds roll into the weekend forecast.
“I hit the ball really well tee-to-green,” said McIlroy. “Gave myself a ton of looks. Honestly it felt like 4 under was probably the worst I could have shot out there. But, you know, it swings in roundabouts. I held a couple of long ones yesterday to shoot a good score, and then missed a couple today, but overall, really pleased with how the last two days have went.”
Beyond Hatton and Kim are a quartet of Americans aiming to plant their flag in the Scottish countryside. Sam Burns looks keen to usurp the European leader from 8 under with his good friend and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler one worse at 7 under. Fellow countrymen Rickie Fowler and Max Homa are still within shouting distance at 6 under as anything and everything remains on the table with Mother Nature taking the reins over the final two days.
1. Rory McIlroy (-10)
What could have been for McIlroy in the second round. Missing a total of nine putts inside 10 feet, he was unable to separate himself from the field and gain some breathing room over the final 36 as the weather turns. The good news is his tee-to-green metrics have been fabulous as he leads the field in said category and ranks inside the top 10 in each tee-to-green area. The bad news is the chasing pack is filled with killers. He will need to hole putts with some consistency — as he did nicely in Round 1 —if he is to win the week before his return to Hoylake.
” [I just have to] take whatever the conditions and the golf course are going to give us,” said McIlroy. “You know, I don’t really have any expectations. It would be silly of me to try to pick a potential target score to get to. So really, just embrace the conditions and just sort of make the best of them. But, you know, I know that I’m playing well enough tee-to-green to give myself some looks and hang in there, so I’m pretty confident going into the next two days no matter what the weather throws at us.”
T2. Byeong Hun An, Tyrrell Hatton, Tom Kim (-9)
T5. Brian Harman, Sam Burns (-8)
T7. Nicolai Hojgaard, Padraig Harrington, Scottie Scheffler (-7)
T10. Daniel Hillier, Grant Forrest, Max Homa, Rickie Fowler, Sebastian Soderberg, Marcel Schneider (-6)
It was a second consecutive 67 for Fowler, but his scoring in Round 2 was far more impressive. Hitting only four fairways on the day and often playing defense into the greens, the 2015 Scottish Open champion was able to scratch and claw his way into red figures and keep pace with the leaders. It was a lot of iron play and putter for Fowler Friday, and should the driver begin to cooperate and set him up for success, his second win in as many starts may arrive Sunday.
“I’d like to say a little bit of everything, but I would say driving the ball, playing from the fairway obviously gives you control going into the greens and having a chance to play aggressive when you can, that I would say probably driving the ball, being the biggest key so that you are actually in a chance where you can be aggressive and try and go forward.”
Cause for concern for Jordan Spieth?
Spieth entered the week a perfect 10-for-10 in made cuts in the United Kingdom between the Scottish Open and The Open. His early exit represents an outlier in terms of his links golf experience, but it may be cause for concern ahead of the year’s final major. Since losing in a playoff to Matt Fitzpatrick at the RBC Heritage, Spieth has tweaked his back, injured his wrist and not looked like the same golfer. The three-time major winner has now missed four of his last six cuts, and another may loom if he doesn’t figure something out quick.
Could a 10-year trend be bucked?
Not since Phil Mickelson in 2013 has a player won the Scottish Open and The Open in back-to-back weeks. This short-lived streak could come to an end as a number of contenders in North Berwick are likely to factor in a handful of days in Hoylake. McIlroy, Scheffler and Fowler are among the betting favorites for The Open, and Hatton would join them should he be the victorious one at The Renaissance Club.
2023 Scottish Open updated odds, picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Rory McIlroy: 2-1
- Tyrrell Hatton: 9/2
- Scottie Scheffler: 6-1
- Tom Kim: 9-1
- Byeong Hun An: 16-1
- Sam Burns: 16-1
- Rickie Fowler: 22-1
- Brian Harman: 25-1
- Max Homa: 35-1
The scratchy weather makes the prognosticating a smidge more difficult. If it was sunny and 75, I think McIlroy seizes control of this tournament and runs away with it. However, that will not be the case. Let’s stick with our Thursday night selections of Padraig Harrington, at 55-1 and just three back, and Wyndham Clark, at 60-1 and just five back. Both have excelled from tee to green so far and could be given a reprieve from some conditions with slightly earlier tee times.
Rick Gehman is joined by Greg DuCharme to break down Friday action at the Genesis Scottish Open. Rory McIlroy is the man to beat, can he get a win before the Open Championship? Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.