|Northern Ireland's McIlroy and Clarke are both in the running to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday [GALLO/GETTY]
On a sunny day when the old-timers shined, the new kid on the block made sure he was right in the thick of things at the British Open.
Another major title is still in Rory McIlroy's grasp, though he isn't going to run away with this one.
The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland tenaciously carved out a 1-under 69 on Friday that left him four strokes off the lead at Royal St. George's.
There will be just seven strokes separating the field heading into what figures to be a wild - and possibly stormy - weekend.
Darren Clarke and Lucas Glover top the leaderboard on 4-under, with 40-somethings Thomas Bjorn, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Davis Love III not far behind.
McIlroy, lurking in the rear-view mirror, is looking to add the Claret Jug to his U.S. Open title.
"They told me no one has won the Open Championship with a beard since the 1890s"
Joint leader Lucas Glover
"It would be nicer to be a couple better, but I'll take that going into the weekend. I'm very happy with my position,'' McIlroy said.
So is another Ulsterman.
Clarke shot his second straight 68 to show his younger countrymen a thing or two.
Once the face of golf in his country, the 42-year-old became an afterthought when first Graeme McDowell, then McIlroy claimed major titles.
Maybe it's time for the old guy to show young McIlroy he isn't past it yet.
"It would mean an awful lot," Clarke said.
"But obviously, this is only after two rounds. There's an awful long way to go yet."
Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, followed an opening 66 with a solid 70 along the English seaside.
U.S. in major crisis
The U.S. has gone five straight majors without a title - the longest drought of the modern Grand Slam era.
Glover shrugged off the slump; besides, he could be in line to snap another streak.
"They told me no one has won the Open Championship with a beard since the 1890s,'' Glover said.
|Tom Watson takes a bow in front of the crowd following his hole-in-one [GALLO/GETTY]
All four current major champions were headed to the weekend, but not the top-ranked player in the world.
England's Luke Donald closed with four straight bogeys for a 75.
PGA champion Martin Kaymer (67) was at 137, with Masters winner Charl Schwartzel (68) another stroke back. Defending British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (70) also was safely above the cut line at 142.
American Tom Watson surged up the leaderboard with a hole-in-one at the sixth.
"Wish I could have seen it go in,'' Watson said as he walked toward the hole to retrieve the second hole-in-one at this Open. Johnson had an ace in the opening round.
Watson missed some short putts, though, and finished with a 70 for a 142, good enough to send him through to the weekend.
Young Brit Tom Lewis couldn't match his superb opening day 65 but also joins Tom Watson – who he was named after – for the last two days on 1-under.
Donald wasn't so fortunate. His dismal finish epitomised the woes for the English, who had hoped to make a big splash at the club that has hosted more Opens outside Scotland than any other.
Lee Westwood, No. 2 in the world, shot 73 and missed the cut by one stroke and Ian Poulter headed home after a 78.
All eyes will be on McIlroy over the weekend to see if he can achieve back-to-back major wins in what could be very difficult conditions.