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5 things we learned on Friday in St. Andrews

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Friday will be a day the golfing world will long remember as it may mark the day Tiger Woods played his final round of competition at the Old Course in St. Andrews. Conditions were easier than Thursday, but Woods couldn’t make the cut after shooting 78-75.

Cameron Smith, however, backed up his Thursday 67 with a 64 that puts him top of the standings at 13 under going into the weekend.

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golf week went inside the numbers for trends and insights from the house of golf to help give context to what we’ve seen so far at the 150th British Open.

A 36-hole track is anything but a lock

Open Championship 2022

Open Championship 2022

Cameron Smith reacts after an eagle putt on the 14th green during the second round of the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews Old Course. (Photo: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

After shooting a Friday 64, Cameron Smith holds the 36-hole lead with a 13-131. There are still 36 holes to play, and while it might be tempting to think that the 150th British Open is now their tournament to lose, recent history of the oldest major championship says otherwise.

Last year at Royal St. Georges, Louis Oosthuizen set the record for the lowest 36-hole score at a British Open with 129 (11 under) but lost to Collin Morikawa. The Open was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 2019 Shane Lowry won at Royal Portrush after sharing the 36-hole lead with JB Holmes at 134 (8 under). Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner led at Carnoustie after 36 holes in 2018, but Italy’s Francesco Molinari won. At Royal Birkdale, Jordan Spieth took a win after leading at the 36-hole mark, and Henrik Stenson won at Royal Troon the previous year after Phil Mickelson had the 36-hole lead. Zach Johnson won at St. Andrews in 2015 after Dustin Johnson took the lead on Saturday.

But if it’s about putting, Smith might be the man

Cameron Smith

Cameron Smith

Cameron Smith putts for an eagle on the 14th green during the second round of the 150th Open Championship golf tournament at St. Andrews Old Course. (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

The firm fairways and massive greens of St. Andrews demanded that players’ trailing putts were sharp. At this point, giving a few shots to the greens could cost a player the Claret Jug. Given that, it’s no surprise that leader Cameron Smith is among the best 3-putt avoiders on the PGA Tour. If some of the great players chasing him want to win, they will have to go against their tendencies and avoid 3-putts.

1. Cameron Smith – 1.78% (11th)
2. Cameron Young – 3.05 (T-147)
T-3. Rory McIlroy- 2.9% (T-122)
T-3. Viktor Hovland – 3.19 (165th)
5. Dustin Johnson – 3.43 (T-177)
T-6. Scottie Scheffler – 2.54 (T-74)
T-6. Tyrrell Hatton – 1.5% (3rd)

Morikawa’s missed cut is a rarity at the British Open

Collin Morikawa reacts after a putt on the 17th green during the second round of the 150th Open Championship golf tournament at St. Andrews Old Course. (Photo: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

After rounds 72 and 73, reigning British Open champion Collin Morikawa missed the cut by one stroke and will not play this weekend. The last player to win the British Open and miss the cut at the tournament the following year was Darren Clarke, who won in 2011 at Royal St. Georges and then missed the cut in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes .

Hovland is a sniper with corners

Viktor Hovland shoots on the 15th hole during the second round of the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews Old Course. (Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

Norway’s Viktor Hovland drilled dramatically from 139 yards on the par-4 15th hole on Friday for an eagle. Hovland already had a good round (he had 4 under on 14 holes), but the dramatic hit energized him and the crowd, and he ended up carding a 7 under 66.

From this distance, Hovland is one of golf’s most accurate players. He entered the week ranked No. 2 on the PGA Tour near the hole between 125 and 150 yards, with an average distance of 18 feet 9 inches. The tour average is 23 feet 6 inches.

End of line for Mickelson?

150th Open Championship

150th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson reacts after a shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the 150th Open Championship golf tournament at St. Andrews Old Course. (Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

Phil Mickelson won the British Open in 2013 at Muirfield and came close to winning again at Royal Troon in 2016, but was edged out by Henrik Stenson. He missed the cut at the 150th British Open after shooting 72-77 (5 over), and now, since that near win seven years ago, he has now missed the cut in four of the last five British Opens and fired only one round in the 60s.

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