The former world number one shot a 69 in extremely testing conditions to take the 36 hole lead at Royal Birkdale at six under
Classy Spieth Battles Brutal Conditions To Lead The Open 2017
The Texan began with a birdie and managed to get round the front nine in one over in the worst of the weather, where cross-winds were gusting up to 35-40mph.
As the conditions got tougher, Spieth got stronger. The two-time major winner chipped in for par at 10 before back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 when most of the field were struggling just to make pars.
A bogey came at 14 before the highlight of his day, an eagle at the par-5 15th.
He hit a necky fade with a 3 wood to around 15 feet and rolled the putt in, this was shades of the Spieth of 2015.
A three-putt bogey at 16 followed, before two closing pars to get into the clubhouse at six under after 36 holes.
He leads fellow American Matt Kuchar by two, who shot an excellent 71 in equally tough conditions.
The 2016 Ryder Cup winners will play together in the final group on Saturday.
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Poulter in position
Home favourite Ian Poulter shot 70 to stay at three under. The runner-up in 2008, the last time the Open was at Birkdale, will play in the penultimate group with US Open winner Brooks Koepka.
Poulter’s day included 16 pars, one birdie and one bogey, and the 12-time European Tour winner couldn’t hide his delight at being back in the mix at a major.
“It feels absolutely marvelous, it really does.
“Walking up 18, just walking from greens to tees was really pretty special today. Huge galleries and they were really pulling for me.”
McIlroy fights back
Rory McIlroy showed signs of his best form as he surged up the leaderboard with a two-under-par 68.
After a horror start on Thursday, when he reached the turn in his joint-worst Open first nine of 39, he faced a tough task to break 80, but what a difference a day can make on the links.
He arrived on the tee in a buoyant mood after eventually firing an opening round of 71, making four birdies on his back nine, and he took his good form into round two.
The 2014 Open champion started with a birdie to quickly get back to level par, and he got his score into the red numbers for the first time when he made a three at the 3rd.
He rarely looked in trouble on his outward nine, narrowly missing a birdie on the 5th, before picking up a shot a hole later when his fantastic approach rolled out to five feet.
His first real test came on the 10th where he found a fairway bunker, but he managed to get up and down to secure a par with a delicate putt from 15 feet. And he found the bottom of the cup from a similar range on 11 to keep his card bogey free.
After almost holing out from a greenside trap at the par-3 12th, the world number four was in trouble a hole later when he found heavy rough off the tee. However, it was no surprise to see McIlroy get up and down once again, as he showcased a much sharper-looking short game to his army of fans, more of whom were flocking to see his charge through the field.
That charge lost its momentum slightly when his touch deserted him for the first time on 13. After leaking his drive to the right, McIlroy could only advance his ball to within 50 yards of the green, and despite another high-class chip, he was unable to covert his 6-foot putt.
It was then that the wind picked up and McIlroy started to lose control of his ball in the difficult crosswinds. An errant drive cost him a bogey at the 15th, but he got back on track with a birdie on 17, before safely two-putting from long range on the final hole.
“To be in after two days and be under par for this championship after the way I started, I’m ecstatic with that,” said McIlroy. “I hit some quality shots out there, I saw a lot of better iron shots and I saw some really good putts going in. So, yeah, there was a lot of quality out there and I was happy to see that. I just have to try to keep that going for the next two days.
“I set myself a target of being in a better position today than I was yesterday. I finished the first round one over and I wanted to be at least level par or under par if possible. And I’ve been able to achieve that goal that I set myself. They’re both huge rounds for very different reasons, but this was definitely the round that got me back into the championship.”
And his position in The Open is improving rapidly with each drop of rain.