Open round-up: Graeme McDowell makes the cut, a tough day for the Irish while Tiger Woods falls short
Graeme McDowell believes he has "nothing to lose" in chasing a Royal Portrush shoot-out with close friend Shane Lowry at The Open.
McDowell went one under on Friday to squeeze through the cut at one over after two rounds, leaving the home favourite breathing a sigh of relief.
The 39-year-old revealed he had to refocus after a troublesome opening round, determined to do himself justice as The Open returned to his home country for the first time in 68 years.
He made a string of pars down the stretch to squeak into the weekend right on the cut-mark of +1. Other Irish players weren't so fortunate. Rory McIlroy came up one stroke short after shooting a great round of 65 to leave him on +2, while Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke both finished on +3.
Clarke will be particularly gutted after recording a triple bogey at the last - had he made a bogey he would have been in for the weekend. There was similar disappointment for Irish amateur James Sugrue
Elsewhere, Tiger Woods also departed after carding a round of 70, which only moved him to +6.
Irishman Lowry shares the lead on eight under with JB Holmes and now McDowell is targeting a tussle with the 32-year-old Clara native that would thrill the home crowds.
"Any time you're trying to make a cut on a Friday afternoon, especially at a Major championship, you're always a little tight, a little nervous," said McDowell.
"But this one obviously means a lot to play the weekend here; anything can happen.
"With just how much this meant, how symbolic this weekend is, and to make sure I'm in there, this was very important to me.
"Thankfully I made two nice swings at the last and gave myself a look. It was satisfying to reset and get the attitude right after yesterday.
"That left a little sting, I couldn't face the range, I just went home and watched some of the coverage, and tried to reset.
"Now I can go out tomorrow and free up a little bit. I can be very loose tomorrow, I can go out there and I've got nothing to lose.
"Certainly mid-60s, I'm certainly very capable of shooting that. I'll need to be better with the driver, but my iron play's certainly good enough and I felt better on the greens today. So I think there's a low one available.
"I'm proud of Shane the last couple of days. I really hope he can keep it going. But also I'd really love to come close to him come Sunday."
While Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy missed the cut, McDowell squeezed through to hand the locals a home hope across the weekend.
Tipping Lowry to go on and lift the prized Claret Jug, McDowell admitted his relief at repaying the support of the Portrush people.
"I'd say Shane is one of the most competitive people I've met in my life," said McDowell.
"It doesn't matter if you're playing credit card roulette for dinner, or cards, or even nine holes on a Tuesday, Shane's the guy trying to beat you.
"Mix that up with a guy who can drive the ball really well, he's one of the best chippers I've ever seen.
"When he's under the gun he knows what to do, and he's not scared. So I certainly wouldn't put it past him to put his name on that trophy, I'd be very proud of him.
"It's been an amazing atmosphere. Part of what I wanted to do today was have a great attitude for the supporters.
"I don't want anyone out there feeling sorry for me, whether I triple the last or not.
"I'm in a very privileged position, I need to keep my head high and show these people I'm proud to be here."
McDowell appeared visibly shocked by Clarke failing to make the cut, when told the 50-year-old had shot a seven at the 18th to slip out of the reckoning.
And with McIlroy missing out too, McDowell said: "That's a couple of sevens and an eight for me, Rory and Darren.
"Listen, there's no words. I felt exactly what he's feeling yesterday. And he's feeling that times 10 more because he didn't have a chance to go on, to try and make up for that.
"I'm gutted for him, I know how much this place means to him.
"He's been probably the most pivotal of the three of us, myself, Rory and him, just because he was the first to win a Claret Jug.
"He's made his home here, and he's spent more time here in the last 20 years than any of us put together.
"So hugely disappointed for him, feeling for him, and hats off for everything he's done for this tournament."