Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share a one-shot lead after 36 holes at Carnoustie, but the big names are stacking up behind
American Duo Lead Open At Halfway Stage
Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share a one-shot lead at the 147th Open Championship going in to the weekend, but the leaderboard is packed with big names after an enthralling day at Carnoustie.
Johnson, who lifted the Claret Jug at St Andrews in 2015, put on a show with the putter en route to posting a classy 67, which included a birdie at the last.
Overnight leader, Kisner had grabbed a two-shot lead before coming unstuck at the 18th with a double bogey when his second rattled into Barry Burn.
After the drama of yesterday, when the firm fairways were hard to predict, the rain, although heavy at times, softened the course and made scoring easier, certainly towards the end of the day.
And some familiar faces took full advantage, with Tommy Fleetwood – the only player in the field not to drop a shot – Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler all surging into contention to set up a tantalising weekend.
The round of the day belonged to Fleetwood, who shot a bogey-free 65 and is looking to go one better than the US Open last month and claim a first Major title, one that would be richly deserved for a man who’s enjoyed a spectacular rise to the top of the game.
The man from Southport burst out the traps, carding birdies at the 4th and 5th, before closing out the front nine with another three. And on the back nine he put on an exhibition, making further gains at the 11th and 14th, and after a perfect drive down the notoriously difficult 18th, he signed off in style from 15 feet.
“I had some time on the range last night and came out today and just did a lot better basically,” reflected Fleetwood. “I drove it much better today. You’ve still got to complete the hole from there, but it makes a big difference if you’re not 30 yards in the rough hacking out.”
Spieth, who dropped four shots over his final four holes yesterday, looks in no mood to surrender his title. After reaching the turn in 34, he added three birdies in five holes from the 10th.
And despite dropping a shot at the long par-3 16th, he found form with the putter and scrambled well, ending the day just three shots back and well placed to challenge for a fourth Major title.
McIlroy is also in a position to kickstart his Major tally, one that’s stalled on four since the PGA Championship in 2014.
The Ulsterman carded a 69 to go with the one he shot on the opening day, and it was a round that offered more than a glimpse that the 29-year-old has shrugged off the cloud of negativity that has surrounded his game in recent times.
The 2014 Open champion showed great patience at a time when the rain was pouring, but he made his first birdie on the 7th, and despite two bogeys on the back nine, he gained shots at the 10th, 13th and 14th, before narrowly missing a putt on the 18th.
“I just kept levelheaded when I needed to, and you know what, I didn’t let the conditions get to me,” said McIlroy, who finds himself just two shots back going into the weekend.
“I wasn’t sort of saying to myself, ‘geez, I wish I was on the other side of the draw.’ I just sort of got on with it. I knew if I went out and shot another score under par, I’d be in great position going into the weekend.”
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Tiger Woods, meanwhile, will need to rediscover some of his old magic if he’s to climb the clustered leaderboard, one that’s full of Major winners, and mount a serious contention.
However, after grinding out a second level-par 71 in a row, the former world number one has at least given himself a chance going into the weekend.
“I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit,” said Woods, who won his last Open in 2006. “The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously.
“It rained, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice, and certainly birdies could be had out there.”
Elsewhere, there were a number of unexpected casualties at Carnoustie, with Sergio Garcia (+4), Jon Rahm (+5) and world number one, Dustin Johnson (+6) all missing the cut.
One of the pre tournament favourites, Justin Rose has been far from his best so far this week, but he showed steel to make the cut on the mark at the final hole.