PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- The most compelling drama at the British Open on Friday didn't happen at the top of the leaderboard, or anywhere near it.
The heart-thumping, hand-wringing action took place at the cut line, where local hero Rory McIlroy fought gamely to survive for the weekend. He fell just short, however, his six-under-par 65 unable to atone for the 79 he shot in the opening round.
He still got a rousing standing ovation from the fans in the grandstands surrounding the 18th green at Royal Portrush. Notably, precious few of them had phones raised to capture the moment. It was as if they wanted to see it with their own eyes, not on a tiny screen.
McIlroy, who technically established a course record because there are two new holes, was filled with emotions after 36 holes.
"Disappointed not to be here for the weekend," he said. "Unbelievably proud of how I handled myself today coming back after what was a very challenging day yesterday. And just full of gratitude towards every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on.
"As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, you know, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them as I was for me. I wanted to be here for the weekend. Selfishly I wanted to feel that support for two more days."
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After his final putt, McIlroy removed his cap, stood at mid-green and raised his hands in applause to the crowd, thanking them for his support.
He wasn't the only big name to miss the cut. Gary Woodland, who won the U.S. Open last month and was playing in his group, is done for the tournament too.
So are Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who for the first time in their illustrious careers missed the cut together in the same major championship.
Such is the heartbreak of Portrush, where the Irish weeping was not confined to the skies. A lot of hopes were pinned on McIlroy, a sentimental favorite who was raised in Belfast and was so looking forward to the first Open in Northern Ireland since 1951.