Australian Cameron Smith lit up St Andrews in bright afternoon sunshine to lead the British Open by two shots as Tiger Woods’s challenge fizzled out meekly in the second round on Friday.
Smith birdied his first three holes and picked up three more shots before sinking a long snaking eagle putt on the 14th green on the way to a flawless 64 that lifted him to 13-under-par.
American first-round leader Cameron Young was the closest challenger on 11-under, one shot ahead of Norwegian Viktor Hovland and Irishman Rory McIlroy, who carded a rock-solid 68 to stay firmly in contention to win his fifth major title.
Dustin Johnson was a further shot back on nine under with world number one and fellow American Scottie Scheffler another stroke behind alongside Briton Tyrrell Hatton.
Woods needed a huge improvement on his opening 78 to make the cut at the scene of his 2000 and 2005 Open triumphs.
The 15-times major champion, continuing his comeback from serious injuries sustained in a car crash last year, flickered into life with a birdie at the third before two bogeys quickly halted his momentum.
He played steadily on the back nine until finding a bunker on the 16th and the ensuing double-bogey took the 46-year-old to nine-over-par, ending any faint hopes he had of returning at the weekend.
Woods received a standing ovation from the galleries as he walked up the 18th fairway before he missed a short birdie putt to complete a round of 75 that left him tied for 148th place in the 156-man field.
“It’s very emotional for me,” Woods told reporters. “I’ve been coming here since 1995. I think the next one comes around in 2030 and I don’t know if I will be physically able to play by then.
“My two-day play is I made my share of mistakes,” he added. “Struggled again today to get the feel of the greens.”
Smith, the 28-year-old world number six, won this year’s Players’ Championship, the unofficial fifth major, and was tied third at the Masters but his best performance in four previous British Opens was tied 20th in 2019.
“Obviously, got off to a really hot start,” he told reporters.
“And it’s very easy to just keep going, getting on the front foot and maybe trying to hit some shots that are a little bit too aggressive. But just stayed patient and holed some really nice putts.”
American Young, the world number 32, bogeyed the second before picking up two birdies to revive his challenge and birdies at the ninth, 14th and 18th holes helped him to a tidy 69.
McIlroy started his second round solidly and three straight birdies after the turn closed the gap on the leader. He dropped back with a bogey at the 15th before a birdie at the infamous Road Hole, the 17th, helped him finish on 10-under.
“It was pretty good,” McIlroy said. “It was a completely different golf course than the course we played yesterday with the wind switch.”
Norwegian Hovland moved steadily up the leaderboard and holed his approach shot at the par-four 15th for an eagle before a birdie at the last took him level with his Ryder Cup team mate McIlroy.
Twice major champion Johnson shot a composed 67, recovering from a bogey at the first to ride a hot putter and make six birdies.
“I thought I played really nicely, just drove it well, hit a lot of quality iron shots, gave myself a lot of looks at birdie,” Johnson told reporters.
“Obviously, if you look at the history of the tournament, it’s a trophy I would love to have in the office when I’m done with my golf career.”
Scheffler also bogeyed the first but soon rediscovered his usual smooth rhythm to conjure up four birdies around the turn before signing for a second successive 68.
Hatton moved into contention with a bogey-free 66 to finish one ahead of Americans Talor Gooch, Patrick Cantlay and Sahith Theegala plus Australian Adam Scott, the former Masters champion who tore up the Old Course with a sparkling 65.
South Korean Si Woo Kim, Australian Min Woo Lee, Thai Sadom Kaewkanjana and Briton Matthew Fitzpatrick, who won last month’s U.S. Open, were among those who finished on six under.
A raft of former Open winners missed the cut along with Woods, including defending champion Collin Morikawa, Americans Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, David Duval and Mark Calcavecchia, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie.