But the man behind him recorded the low round of the championship on Friday and is searching for his first major championship.
Dustin Johnson shot 7-under 65 in the second round at Royal Liverpool and vaulted up the leaderboard into solo second place. He made seven birdies and zero bogeys to earn himself a spot in the final group of the third round.
“I couldn’t be happier with the position I’m in,” Johnson said. “I’ve still got two more days of golf to play.”
Johnson is no stranger to being in contention in major championships; he just hasn’t been able to breakthrough. He entered the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a three-shot lead before imploding with an 82. His near-miss – the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, known more commonly as Bunkergate – is the one everyone remembers, but he also had a chance to win the 2011 British Open at Royal St. Georges before making a costly error down the stretch.
Johnson had cut a four-shot deficit to Darren Clarke in half, and standing on the par-5 14th tee he opted to be aggressive on his second shot. From 250 yards, Johnson hit a 2-iron well right, into the junk and out of bounds. He made double bogey and tied for second place, three shots behind Clarke.
At 30, Johnson still has plenty of time to collect major hardware, but he needs to be more consistent in these big situations. He’ll have a tall task ahead of him to catch McIlroy, but it’s another chance to get himself out of the conversation as one of the best players who hasn't won a major.
“I’m glad I’m in the last group,” Johnson said. “I’m going to go out and play my game. I can’t worry about what he’s doing. Just go out there and try to shoot a big number.”