Rory McIlroy tightened his grip on
with another commanding performance at Hoylake.
The 25-year-old stretched his lead to four shots at 12 under with a second 66 on a sunny, breezy day on the Wirral.
American Dustin Johnson fired a stunning 65 to reach eight under with Sergio Garcia (70), Francesco Molinari (70), Rickie Fowler (69), Ryan Moore (68), Charl Schwartzel (67) and Louis Oosthuizen (68) at six under.
carded 77 to
at two over in his first major of the year after back surgery, while world number one Adam Scott had 73 to slip to three under.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson took 70 to end level par, with England’s Justin Rose two under after a 70.
But Masters champion Bubba Watson, two-time winner Ernie Els, England’s Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were among those to miss the cut, which fell at three over.
of poor Friday rounds behind him with a masterful display over the Royal Liverpool links on a day when conditions favoured his later start time.
He said: “My second rounds this year have been terrible and there isn’t really any explanation. Hopefully I put it to bed today.
“It was just another solid a round of golf.”
The Northern Irishman, playing in less breeze than the morning wave, opened with a bogey but soon eased into his rhythm and made his first birdie at the long fifth after a drive of more than 375 yards.
Further birdies came at the par-three sixth, the eighth, the 10th, the 15th, the 17th (with a drive of 396 yards) and the 18th to create clear daylight between himself and the field in scenes reminiscent of Martin Kaymer’s dominant US Open win last month. McIlroy broke a host of scoring records in winning the 2011 US Open by eight shots and he also had an eight-shot margin when he clinched the 2012 US PGA.
A first Open title on Sunday would represent the third leg of a career Grand Slam of all four major titles. Only Mickelson, of the current crop is as close to joining the elite group of Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen to have accomplished the feat.
Woods, the 14-time major champion, began the day three behind McIlroy in only his second tournament since March, but opened with a double bogey after driving left into the rough next to the adjacent 18th fairway.
Another bogey followed at the second, but unlike on Thursday when he was able to regroup and go on a charge, Woods struggled to create birdie chances and made 14 straight pars before a disastrous triple-bogey seven on the 17th after a wayward drive out-of-bounds to the right off the tee.
Needing a birdie up the par-five 18th to make the cut, the 38-year-old got up and down from over a greenside bunker to squeeze into the weekend.
The former world number one, who won at Hoylake in 2006, is still chasing that elusive first major since 2008.
Johnson, 30, was another to finish well into the evening and scored the lowest round of the week comprising seven birdies and no bogeys.
The American has played in the final group on Sunday in three majors – the 2010 US Open, the 2011 US PGA and the 2011 Open – finishing a best of second behind Darren Clarke at Royal St George’s three years ago.
Garcia, 34, who is still seeking his first major title in a career of much promise, continued his decent season with the second best round of the week to once again grace the upper echelons of the Hoylake leaderboard after going into the final round one shot back in 2006 before fading to fifth.
Like he did on the third day eight years ago, Garcia’s round on Friday included an eagle on the second after holing out from the fairway.
South Africa’s Coetzee shot an impressive 69 amid the 30mph gusts of the morning to end five under along with American Jim Furyk.
Of those in the top 10, only McIlroy, 2011 Masters winner Schwartzel, former US Open champion Furyk and 2010 Open champion Oosthuizen have won a major.