Hoylake, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Rory McIlroy opened the second round Friday with a bogey, but that was his last mistake of the day. McIlroy ran off seven birdies the rest of his round and grabbed a 4-stroke lead after 36 holes at the Open Championship.
McIlroy, who had struggled recently in second rounds, carded his second straight 6-under 66 to post 12-under-par 132. That matches the start Tiger Woods had at Royal Liverpool en route to victory in 2006.
The back-to-back 66s buck McIlroy's trend at the Open Championship. In six previous starts, he has just one top-20 finish, a share of third in 2010. He opened with a 63 that week at St. Andrews, but followed with an 80. He has averaged a 72.9 in second rounds this year on the PGA Tour.
As good as McIlroy's round was, it wasn't the best of the day. Dustin Johnson, in the group behind the leader, fired a 7-under 65 to soar into second place at minus-8. Johnson shared second at the Open in 2011 and tied for ninth 2012.
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel carded a 5-under 67 to climb into a share of third place at 6-under-par 138. He was joined there by Sergio Garcia (70), Ryan Moore (68), Francesco Molinari (70), Louis Oosthuizen (68) and Rickie Fowler (69).
Jim Furyk (71) and George Coetzee (69) are tied for ninth at 5-under 139.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson carded a 2-under 70 and finished two rounds at even-par 144.
After a bogey at three, Mickelson followed with a birdie on four and an eagle on five to get back to even-par for the championship. He dropped a shot on the eighth, then parred nine in a row. Mickelson closed with a birdie to get back to even-par.
"I had a couple of loose strokes, but I had a lot of great things happen with the eagle on No. 5 and an unbelievable par on 10," Mickelson stated. "That putt on 18 is like a mental hurdle with getting back to even-par at a major championship. That was a big putt going into the weekend."
Woods, a three-time Open champion, needed a birdie on 18 to make the cut on the number. He struggled to a 5-over 77 to end 36 holes at 2-over-par 146.
At the opening hole Friday, Woods made a mess as his tee shot found the rough on the 18th hole. He hacked his ball back into the first rough, and that led to a double-bogey.
Woods followed with a bogey on the second. He settled in and ran off 14 straight pars from the third. Woods' tee shot on 17 went out of bounds and that led to a triple-bogey, which dropped him outside the cut line. Woods managed to get up and down for birdie at the last to make the cut.
"That was to make it on the number. It gives me a chance, but obviously I'm pretty far back. Luckily, I've got two rounds to go. Hopefully I can do what Paul (Lawrie) did in '99. He made up I think 10 strokes in one day," said Woods in reference to Paul Lawrie's comeback win in 1999 at Carnoustie. "Hopefully I can play well on the weekend, give myself a shot heading into the back nine on Sunday."
With McIlroy's recent struggles in the second round, it wasn't surprising to see him bogey the first to fall behind Molinari. The Italian quickly lost a tee shot on No. 8 to fall from the lead.
McIlroy parred three in a row before catching fire. He birdied the fifth and sixth, both from inside five feet. Now back in the lead, McIlroy pushed his advantage to two with a 7-foot birdie putt on the eighth.
At the 10th, McIlroy pitched from the rough to tap-in range to birdie the par-5 for the second day in a row. He was three clear of the field at that point, but wasn't finished.
McIlroy rolled in a 3-footer for birdie on the 15th to move four clear of the field. After a near 400-yard drive on 17, he chipped inside 10 feet and rolled that in for birdie. McIlroy converted a 5-footer for birdie at the last to briefly move five clear of the field. Johnson also birdied the 18th to cut McIlroy's lead to four.
"I was just trying to stick to my game plan. I was just sticking with my process. Bogey at one from 80 yards, so I was thinking 'that's not the best way to start,' but I knew the par-5s are where you can make your score on this golf course. I knew I had those coming up, but after the bogey at the first, I was still relatively calm inside," said McIlroy.
Johnson had the only bogey-free round of the day on Friday. He opened with birdies on the first, third and fifth. After four pars to close his opening nine, Johnson converted back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 to get to minus-6.
The reigning WGC-HSBC Champions winner ran off five pars in a row from the 12th. Johnson closed his round with birdies at 17 and 18 to end four off the lead.
"I hit driver when I could, when it's an advantage. I've done really well the first couple days and I haven't hit any fairway bunkers. Today was a lot more windy, but I hit the ball really solid and gave myself a lot of chances for birdie," said Johnson.
NOTES: McIlroy has six PGA Tour wins, including the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship ... He has converted just 2-of-6 36-hole leads into victory ... Darren Clarke, in 2011, was the last 36-hole leader to win the championship ... With bad weather in the forecast for Saturday, players will go off split tees and in threesomes for the first time in Open Championship history ... Five-time Open champion Tom Watson made the cut on the number at 2-over 146 ... Ashley Chesters finished at low amateur at plus-3, but all four amateurs missed the cut ... The cut was at 2-over par with 72 players moving on to the weekend ... Among those missing the cut were Nick Watney, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Masters champ Bubba Watson, Erik Compton, Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, along with former Open champions Justin Leonard, John Daly, Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton, Ernie Els, David Duval, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle.