Halfway home at the British Open, and a pair of Camerons are at the top of the leaderboard. Cameron Smith, the mulleted Aussie wonder, caught and passed first-round leader Cameron Young, posting a scorching eight-under round that left him at -13 for the week, the lowest score in relation to par after two rounds in Open history.
Smith, who challenged for the Masters and won the Players this year, started out smoking — three straight birdies to begin his round — and never slowed down on a day where rain-softened greens and still winds allowed him to challenge the rolling hills of St. Andrews.
"I've always been a pretty good player in tough conditions," Smith said. "I think most Aussies are, for some reason. I think we're all brought up to be smart golfers, hit away from the pin sometimes. And that really serves us well, I think, in big tournaments and when the conditions get tough."
Young played decent golf on Friday, carding five birdies against two bogeys for a -3 round that left him at -11 overall. But "decent golf" won't get it done on a day when conditions were perfect for low scores, and Young saw his two-stroke lead become a two-stroke deficit.
A stroke behind Young lurks Rory McIlroy, who's in search of his first major since 2014. McIlroy's four-under round kept him in the hunt, but it could have been even better; McIlroy let several opportunities, including a birdie putt on the 18th, just barely slip away. Even so, he's once again in position to claim his fifth major.
McIlroy dismissed the idea that playing well in the early stages of yet another major would benefit him this week. "We play so much golf. I'd have to actually think about what I did at the U.S. Open," he said. "But just play good golf and keep hitting good shots and hit a good shot and hit another good shot after that and just try to hit good golf shots until you run out of holes."
Further down the leaderboard, storylines await. Viktor Hovland birdied the final hole to join McIlroy in the penultimate pairing on Saturday. Dustin Johnson, the highest-ranked player to jump from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, posted a strong round earlier in the day to get to -9 and a brief clubhouse lead. A couple of Masters champions, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and ageless Adam Scott, are inside the top 10 at -8 and -7, respectively. And multiple players in search of their first major, including Patrick Cantlay and Tyrell Hatton, are within striking distance as well.
As for Tiger Woods, he received a champion's ovation as he walked up the 18th fairway, knowing he would miss the cut.
The Open resumes Saturday morning, and with it, the stakes grow much higher. Pressure now enters into the equation, the pressure of sustaining a hot start and the pressure of staying calm at a place where golf immortality awaits.
"I would say it's going to be pretty brutal out there," Smith said. "I think there's going to be a few more gnarly pins, and I think being smart out there is definitely going to be the key to staying at the top of the leaderboard."
"It depends on the wind [Saturday]," McIlroy said. "If the wind is similar it's going to be the same. You're going to see guys go out 4- or 5-under par and hang on coming in."
Young, a PGA Tour rookie, claimed after his round that he wouldn't be spending Friday night thinking about the fact that he's in a perfect position to claim a Claret Jug.
"No," Young said, "I won't think about it once I leave."
Whether you believe him or not, he won't have much time before he has to be back on the Old Course for the second half of this tournament.
Contact Jay Busbee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.