Round 2 Open grades: McIlroy, Spieth shine

Rory McIlroy stumbled out of the gate on Thursday, but a rebound on Friday over the same stretch of holes at the 146th Open put him in a tie for sixth through 36 holes. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

SOUTHPORT, England -- What a day. Friday began with slate-gray skies and gusting wind, progressed to clearer air buffeted by stronger wind, took in two torrential downpours, and even included a short spell of eerie dead calm, all played out in front of sandhills lined by thousands of fans who by day's end were completely drenched to the skin, yet stubbornly refusing to depart the property.

Otherwise known as peak Open Championship drama. Who set sail on the wind? And who capsized in the rain?

Dustin Johnson

Grade: C-

He made the cut, but will be the length of a downwind drive from happy. The number that will rankle is four because he hit just four fairways and found a mere four greens in regulation on Friday. The fact he needed only 22 putts, rather than 27 in the first lap, is very tainted good news because it was the simple consequence of being so bad at getting the ball on the putting surface from distance.

World ranking: No. 1
Score: 71-72 (+3)

Hideki Matsuyama

Grade: C-

He's T-11 heading into the weekend and 6 shots back. Not ideal, but he's got a chance to win, so it's impossible to grade low. But a late double-bogey 7 not only left a sour taste and ruined a really good opportunity to break the major duck, it also echoed his up-and-down trend from the U.S. Open. Admittedly 68-72 is not as dramatic as 74-65-71-66 at Erin Hills, but the inability to avoid damaging laps is hurting him right now.

World ranking: No. 2
Score: 68-72 (Even)

Jordan Spieth

Grade: B+

Through the back of the green on the par-4 10th in three and 1-over-par for the day, Spieth was seriously under pressure and so did what he does when at his best: chipped-in for par, then made a brace of birdies. He had negotiated a skid, then accelerated past rivals into the lead. Two bogeys followed, but in between there was an outrageous eagle-3. True, there was good fortune involved, but he took advantage, which is yet another sign of his class. Gave himself B. Tough school. We'll be more generous.

World ranking: No. 3
Score: 65-69 (-6)

Rory McIlroy

Grade: A

A wise man once said that all you can do in this life is strive to be better than yesterday. So if you play the first six holes of Royal Birkdale in 5-over-par Thursday and 3-under Friday, that works. There was a stumble on the back nine, but a late birdie at 17 ensured he would hit the weekend in red numbers. Only needed 24 putts and knew it represented progress afterward. It's taken some time, but he's looking more like the Rory of old.

World ranking: No. 4
Score: 71-68 (-1)

Sergio Garcia

Grade: C

The golf was solid, the weather was cold, the temper was hot. On the fourth hole, he got in a tussle with a gorse bush and came off worse. "I almost screwed up my Open," he said. Not that you'd know it: He responded on the next tee by hitting the green, even though it was 346 yards away, and holed the eagle putt. Victory looks beyond him, but you'd expect him to make progress through the field at the weekend.

World ranking: No. 5
Score: 73-69 (+2)

Jason Day

Grade: D-

As the afternoon wore on and it became apparent that he would be making the cut, he was probably not entirely pleased. The reason? He finished double-bogey 6, bogey 6, double-bogey 6. It was a devilish climax to his round that included a flubbed chip into a bunker on the final hole. Time will no doubt dim his frustration at playing the weekend. So, too, will his desire to maintain the form to rebuild.

World ranking: No. 6
Score: 69-75 (+5)

Jon Rahm

Grade: D

Two ruinous streaks ended his hopes of a maiden major championship victory. The first came straight from the traps, when he dropped shots at 1, 2 and 3. Then midway through the back nine, he scratched four straight bogeys at 11, 12, 13 and 14.

World ranking: No. 7
Score: 69-74 (+3)

Henrik Stenson

Grade: C

A bum day that included dealing with the news that his rental home was burglarized during the first round, dropped shots on the front nine, a brief respite of two birdies, then three bogeys to the clubhouse. There will be no successful defense of the Claret Jug, but it would be harsh to grade too low.

World ranking: No. 8
Score: 69-73 (+2)

Alex Noren

Grade: B-

After a flat front nine, there was every chance that he would be drifting from the narrative, but eight pars and a birdie keep him involved. His extraordinary pre-shot routines have bewildered many of those new to him, but don't be fooled. For all the eccentricities, he knows exactly what he's doing.

World ranking: No. 9
Score: 68-72 (Even)

Rickie Fowler

Grade: C

Unless something very special happens on the weekend, we will not witness Fowler's break from the best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major pack. Just as on Thursday, he made early ground (2 under through seven) but then went backward (in this case with three bogeys around the turn.) Needs to last out 18 holes.

World ranking: No. 10
Score: 71-71 (+2)

Zach Johnson

Grade: A

After the poor opening lap, he spent Thursday afternoon taking penance on the range and it worked. Hit 13 greens in regulation, needed just 27 putts and made five birdies as he posted the low round of the day. It should have come as no great surprise, however, because he had been ranked top 20 at the end of the round 19 out of 23 times at The Open coming into this week. Sitting outside that just now, but not by much.

World ranking: No. 71
Score: 75-66 (+1)

Open Championship galleries

Grade: A

The early start? Set the alarm clocks. The sand hills? It's good for the calves. The wind? No fear, that's what jumpers are for. The rain? Who's got the umbrella? They are steadfast, intrepid and undaunted. They are also wind-burnt, soaking wet and cold. But they saw some great golf -- and they'll be back at the weekend.

Phil Mickelson

Grade: F

A year after he was sensational in defeat at Royal Troon, Mickelson has exited via the back door. This is his first missed cut in The Open since 2012, and a round of golf that saw almost nothing go right. Or rather straight. Most of the long game efforts went left or right as he found only four fairways and five greens in regulation.

World ranking: No. 26
Score: 73-77 (+10)