Ireland’s Shane Lowry will aim to take a step closer to glory at The Open when he kick-starts the third round as joint leader. Here, PA looks ahead to the third round at Royal Portrush.

Ones to watch

Shane Lowry is the joint leader at the halfway stage at Royal Portrush
Shane Lowry is the joint leader at the halfway stage at Royal Portrush (Richard Sellers/PA)

Shane Lowry 3:50pm:
The joint leader along with JB Holmes will be itching to extend his fine form, especially given his status as hailing from the island of Ireland. From the Republic he may come, but when it comes to golf, support binds north and south. So the people of Portrush will be out in force willing on the 32-year-old.

Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood 3:40pm/Justin Rose 3:20pm:
English hopes hang on an in-form and confident trio. Fleetwood and Westwood both boast seven under for the tournament, with Rose just one shot behind. Westwood has girlfriend Helen Storey as his caddie for the first time at a major tournament and admitted she is keeping him calm and focused. Rose is still on that quest for glory at The Open that stretches back to his stunning fourth-pace finish as an amateur in 1998. Rose finished joint second last year, finally bettering his achievement as a 17-year-old rookie. Should he scoop the Claret Jug this year he would prove a hugely popular winner.

Cuts Rory to the core

Not even a fine six under for the day could save an understandably dejected McIlroy from missing the cut, and the second half of his homecoming championship. The 30-year-old edged so close to the combined score of one over required to inch through to the weekend, but fell agonisingly one shot short. His eight over par in a distressing first round eventually proved too much to overcome.

Statistical method in The Open madness

The Open Championship 2019 – Preview Day Four – Royal Portrush Golf Club
Francesco Molinari, pictured, is the exception that proves the rule when it comes to picking an Open champion at the halfway stage (Richard Sellers/PA)

The 2019 Open champion is almost bound to come from one of the 10-best players from the first two rounds at Royal Portrush: 23 of the last 24 major champions were inside the top 10 after 36 holes. Reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari is the one outlier in that stint however, as he was tied in 29th this time last year.

TV times

Sky Sports Golf 9:00am. Check for more information.

Top of the shots

The in-form Lee Westwood putted right across the green at the 16th for a stunning birdie – on the hole called ‘Calamity’. For Westwood the 16th has been anything but problematic, though, as he has birdied it in both rounds so far.

Don’t sit there!

The Open Championship 2019 – Day Two – Royal Portrush Golf Club
Lucas Bjerregaard, centre, tries to shift a spectator who sat on his ball at The Open (Richard Sellers/PA)

Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard had hardly teed off at the first when he ran into problems. But these were hardly of his own making, as a spectator took a seat on his ball. As the Dane and the officials searched for his ball, all of a sudden the offending fan realised his misdemeanour. Up he popped and on his way he went, leaving Bjerregaard to press on towards a 68, for a four under score at the halfway stage.

Weather forecast

Saturday could yet prove the best weather of the tournament. Forecasts suggest there might not even be any rain. But on the north coast of Northern Ireland, no prediction can ever be wholly trusted. Expect spectators to be well prepared with umbrellas and wet-weather gear.

You can quote me on that

The Open Championship 2019 – Day Two – Royal Portrush Golf Club
England’s Lee Westwood kisses girlfriend and caddie Helen Storey on the 18th during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club (Richard Sellers/PA)

“She’s delighted to be caddying at a major because she doesn’t have to rake the bunkers and get sand on her trainers!” Lee Westwood jokes about girlfriend Helen Storey caddying for him for the first time at a major tournament.

Home tweet home

The spectators in one house overlooking the Royal Portrush course have been busy at the printers. On Thursday the banner unfurled was urging on Rory McIlroy, but by Friday afternoon the message of support had switched to Graeme McDowell.