HOYLAKE, England (AP) — So much for those second-round doldrums. Rory McIlroy is holding up just fine on Day 2 of the British Open.
As for Tiger Woods, it looks as though he's still a bit rusty.
McIlroy, who has struggled on Fridays throughout the year for reasons that are a mystery to him and everyone else, was 8 under par heading to the back nine at Royal Liverpool, putting him two shots ahead of the field.
Woods, on the other hand, went tumbling off the leaderboard with a double-bogey at the first hole and a bogey at the second. Looks like that 15th major title will have to wait a little longer, which really shouldn't be surprising for someone playing for only the second time since back surgery.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson bounced back from a 74 on Thursday with a 70 that left him safe for the weekend. The world's top-ranked player, Adam Scott, rallied for a 73 with birdies on the final two holes, leaving him solidly in contention for his second major title.
On a day that was tougher for scoring, McIlroy was unlikely to match the 6-under 66 that pushed him into the lead after the first round. But he didn't get flustered when he bogeyed No. 1, even though that must have felt awfully familiar to him.
McIlroy has started a couple of tournaments with 63s and another with a 64, but wasn't able to win any of them. Strangely, he's had a serious case of the yips in the second round, putting up a cumulative score of 15-over par compared with 55 under for the opening round, and 39 under on the weekend.
Midway through the second round at Hoylake, he was doing quite nicely. A two-putt birdie at the par-5 fifth was followed by a pinpoint tee shot to about 6 feet at the par-3 sixth, setting up another birdie. He took his score even lower with an exquisite iron shot at No. 8, setting up a 10-foot putt.
Before making his third birdie of the front side, he had to deal with a different kind of birdie. A pheasant wandered onto the green as McIlroy was lining up his putt. He shooed it away with help from his caddie, both of them chuckling at the strange scene.
The wind was whipping through Royal Liverpool in the morning, but seemed to settle a bit in the afternoon — benefiting many of the same players, McIlroy and Woods among them, who played in pristine conditions Thursday morning.
The expected rains held off, leaving Friday's round to be played in hazy, sticky weather.
Sergio Garcia struck the best shot of the day, holing a 150-yard shot from the edge of the rough for an eagle at the second. The Spaniard, still seeking that first major title most thought he would have won long before now, was at 6 under and tied with Italy's Francesco Molinari.
When the ball dropped into the cup, Garcia threw up his arms, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Then he slapped hands with playing partners Rickie Fowler and Luke Donald.
The leader in the clubhouse was George Coetzee, a South African who this year won for the first time on the European Tour. On his 28th birthday, he gave himself a pretty nice gift — a 69 that took his 36-hole score to 5-under 139.
"This is definitely my favorite major," Coetzee said. "It's always going to be my birthday week. It's nice to play well, obviously, in a very prestigious event. And to have my birthday coincide with it is also nice."
Coetzee was actually tied for the lead at 6 under after three straight birdies on the back side. He capped the run with little more than a tap-in at the par-3 15th, his tee shot curling up about 2 feet from the hole.
That's when he took a peek at the scoreboard, noticed his name above all others — and promptly bogeyed the next two holes.
"It's obvious I looked at it as soon as I was at the top," he said, smiling. "But it was quite a good feeling to look at my name and be at the top of the leaderboard."
Coetzee pulled himself together, finished off with another birdie at the 18th.
Then it was off to a low-key birthday celebration with his mother and girlfriend.
"A couple of Cokes," Coetzee said.
Mickelson got a much-needed boost with a chip-in for eagle at the fifth. He completed his round by rolling in a 15-foot birdie putt. He pumped his fist a couple of times and walked off with an even-par 144.
Scott was at 141, a decent number given he played much of his round in a howling wind.
"Today was much tougher out there," he said. "All of a sudden there were holes where I was hitting 6-iron from in the 140s (yards). That's when you know it's pretty windy."
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