It wouldn’t be golf - or a major championship - if all of those expected to do well actually did so. And of course they did not. The inherent vagaries of the game combined with the unpredictable eccentricities of links golf saw a small family of favorites fall by the seaside at the halfway point of the 147th Open Championship. Most notably, the two men at the top of the world-ranking list, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, will be looking for something else to occupy their time over the weekend. (World No. 3 Justin Rose birdied the last hole to scrape through “on the number.”)
Johnson actually appeared to be in good shape with only two holes to go. Round in a disappointing 76 on day one, the former U.S Open champion was two-under par for the first 16 holes of his second round over a rain-softened Carnoustie. Two pars would have seen him safely through on the cut mark of three-over par. Unfortunately, a bogey, double-bogey finish did not.
Thomas’ demise was even more spectacular. Seemingly poised to play himself into contention after an opening 69, the PGA champion was still two-under par for the championship after five holes. Three holes later, however, Thomas was four-over. Three consecutive double-bogeys - 7-6-5 against 5-4-3 - did the damage from which he could not recover. Level par for the next 10 holes, he missed by a single shot.
The next highest-ranked player to suffer the ignominy of an early exit was Jon Rahm. The burly Spaniard’s triple-bogey at the par-4 seventh was only the beginning of his struggle. Double bogeys at the nineth and 16th followed, leaving the world No. 5 on five-over par for the championship.
Ian Poulter also crashed out in an equally extravagant fashion. The extrovert Englishman’s second round was dotted with heinous errors. There was a triple-bogey seven at the seemingly innocuous seventh. Then double-bogey sixes at both the 12th and 18th. Round in 81, the European Ryder Cup talisman hit his ball nine times too many.
Perhaps a little more predictable was the demise of Bubba Watson. The two-time Masters champion already had four missed cuts on his Open resume in nine previous visits to the United Kingdom. Only once has he finished in the top 25, his best effort T-23 at Royal Lytham back in 2012. Watson shot 73 to miss by three shots.
Eleven years on from their epic four-hole playoff for the title at Carnoustie, both Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia both failed to qualify for the second half of this Open. Harrington’s 74 saw the two-time champion miss out by five shots. And Garcia paid a heavy price for the double-bogey five he made at the 248-yard 16th. The Spaniard finished on four-over par - one shot too many - the same fate suffered by world No. 16 Hideki Matsuyama and South African Branden Grace, whose 62 at Royal Birkdale last year remains the lowest score ever shot in any of the four major championships.