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After surviving cut, McIlroy in British title hunt

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

July 21, 2017 08:34 PM
Suddenly full of confidence, Rory McIlroy is five strokes behind leader Jordan Spieth after the second round of the British Open.
© USA Today Sports Images

Early in his opening round, Rory McIlroy was gunning for last place in the British Open. After six holes and five bogeys, he seemed unlikely to make the cut.

McIlroy had failed to make the cut in three of his past four tournaments, arriving this week with the look of a gambler down on his luck. But he’s a survivor in Southport, England. And not only is he extending his stay for the weekend, McIlroy is in the hunt to win the tournament. He’s in a thinning herd of players capable of taking down second-round leader Jordan Spieth.

Rain and wind caused scoring carnage at Royal Birkdale on Friday, when volatile weather blew in from the Irish Sea and blew away several big names. Spieth remained steady, backing up his first-round 65 with a 69 and claiming the top spot at 6 under par.

“Spieth is the one who has not really wavered yet,” Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “He’s been the most consistent, and there’s no doubt he deserves to be the favorite.”

On the adjusted odds board, Spieth is favored at 3-2 (plus-150). McIlroy and Matt Kuchar are at 7-1 odds, with Brooks Koepka at 8-1 and Ian Poulter at 15-1. Kuchar is alone in second, two strokes back of Spieth. Koepka and Poulter are three back and tied for third.

Kuchar is the consummate nice guy who rarely wins. He has finished in the top 10 in all four majors but never has emerged on top. Kuchar teed off Thursday as a 60-1 long shot.

“Do you know how many times I’ve bet Kuchar in majors over the years? But I’ve never bet him for the British Open, and I kept that streak going this year,” said Kornegay, who did bet on Spieth, Koepka and a few other players this week.

Spieth and Dustin Johnson went off as 12-1 co-favorites at the Westgate. Johnson, who withdrew from the Masters with a back injury and missed the cut at the U.S. Open, is tied for 35th at 3 over par.

Rickie Fowler led the Westgate ticket count going into the tournament, with Hideki Matsuyama No. 2 and Spieth No. 3 on the popularity list. Matsuyama is even after two days, and Fowler is 2 over par.

“We don’t lose on Spieth, but I can’t say it’s one of our most favorable results,” Kornegay said. “It’s like a break-even result.”

McIlroy was not a popular play at 20-1 odds. But he found his rhythm Thursday following a poor start, and after firing a 68 on Friday, he’s five strokes behind Spieth and suddenly full of confidence. McIlroy has made up a lot of ground since playing the first six holes at 5 over.

The cut line was 5 over, and Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas failed to survive it.

Koepka is attempting to become the first player to win the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year since Tiger Woods in 2000.

Spieth is shooting for his first British win, and while he seems in control, he’s only halfway home in the most unpredictable major.

The weekend forecast calls for calmer winds. Spieth will need to fend off a storm of chasers led by Kuchar, Koepka, Poulter and a recharged McIlroy.

Third-round matchup picks: Henrik Stenson (-125) over Adam Scott; Rickie Fowler (-120) over Sergio Garcia.

British Open adjusted odds

(Posted at the Westgate, after second round)

Jordan Spieth 3-2

Matt Kuchar 7-1

Rory McIlroy 7-1

Brooks Koepka 8-1

Ian Poulter 15-1

Hideki Matsuyama 25-1

Rafael Cabrera Bello 40-1

Rickie Fowler 40-1

Alex Noren 40-1

Richie Ramsay 40-1

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