150th Open Championship - Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland storm to the front
With barely a breeze rippling across St Andrews and the sun beating down, the benign conditions made life almost as comfortable as they could be for those making it past the cut mark.
Those who started just a stroke or two beyond the cut surged into contention as birdie after birdie was made in the early part of the day.
Kevin Kisner went from -1 to -7 by the end of his round, just six from the overnight leader Cameron Smith.
Francesco Molinari, Dean Burmester and Thomas Pieters were amongst the others out early and shooting low.
A lot of eyes were on game 41 which paired Rory McIlroy with Viktor Hovland, the two started steady, both recording pars on the first.
The European duo were fancied to chase down the lead held by Smith, who was partnered by Cameron Young sitting two shots behind.
Smith was the first to blink and carded just his second bogey of the week on the first hole to see his lead cut to -12.
Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler led the rest of the American charge with DJ quietly going about his business while the gaze was on Smith, Young, McIlroy and Hovland.
The 2020 Masters champion carded two birdies in his opening three holes to push himself to the top end of the leaderboard.
Smith’s error on the first aside, it was clear from the day’s scoring that dropped shots would be rare.
It was very much a race to the top of the leaderboard as the course surrendered in the late-afternoon sun.
Hovland certainly hit his stride impressively with birdies on four, five and six, his incredible 25 foot putt across the slopes of the green on four the pick of the bunch.
His playing partner McIlroy soon got in on the act and back to back birdies on five and six took him to -12 and two off Hovland.
And then, ominously for the rest of the field, McIlroy moved up a gear.
An outrageous bunker shot on 10 found the bottom of the cup for eagle and all of a sudden the Northern Irishman was leading the way, carding another birdie on 14.
McIlroy was in the groove at the perfect time but a day of high drama was to have one final twist when he found the road on 17 forcing him to make bogey before he got the shot back on 18.
Hovland wouldn’t be outdone and he too scored a birdie, seeing the two walk off the Old Course neck and neck on -16.
It’s a lead which has seen them kick clear of the chasing pack with Smith and Young four shots behind.