Phil Mickelson kept his nose in front after the second round of The Open on Friday, while Henrik Stenson made the day’s biggest move.
Friday’s action at Royal Troon was a tale of two halves, with the morning starters enjoying friendlier – albeit rainy – conditions and those teeing off in the afternoon forced to contend not just with the rain, but the blustery, unpredictable wind and freezing cold as well.
Mickelson was one of the lucky ones, heading off early and able to sign for two-under-par 69 after mixing four birdies with two bogeys.
That was six shots less than his stunning opening 63, but still good enough to hold onto a one-shot lead at 10 under par heading into the weekend.
“I thought it was a good round to back up the low round yesterday,” said Mickelson. “I played kind of stress-free golf again. I made one or two bad swings that led to bogeys. But for the most part I kept the ball in play and played kind of stress-free golf.”
The 46-year-old American lies one shot clear of Stenson, whose stunning 65 was the best round of the day.
Also able to enjoy the best of the conditions, the Swede picked up birdies at the third, fourth, fifth, seventh, 10th, 13th and 16th – with a dropped shot at nine his only blip on the day.
“There’s still a long ways to go,” he said when asked about his chances. “There is no point starting to think about outcome at this stage, really,” Stenson said. “Even though you keep on asking me about it all the time.”
The rest of the top 10 was filled with players able to complete their rounds earlier in the day.
Soren Kjeldsen and Keegan Bradley both shot 68s to lie on seven under par, three back, with last year’s Open champion Zach Johnson continuing to make a sterling defence as he finished the day on five under after a well-played 70.
Several players are tied for sixth on four under par – including South African Charl Schwartzel, who shot a superb 66, and Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who had a 70 that included two closing bogeys.
Others who escaped the carnage included Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who is on three under, and US Open champion Dustin Johnson, who lies on two under.
Those who faced the worst of the conditions later in the day included Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth.
McIlroy was sitting pretty on five under after a string of birdies on the front nine when the weather turned and had to scramble to get home in 71 after dropping four holes in a five-hole stretch. He lies on two under but it could have been so much better.
World No 1 Day was also charging with four front-nine birdies, only to make two bogeys on the back nine. He managed to limit the damage better than most, shooting a one-under 70 that left him on one over par.
Spieth failed to get going all day but just survived the cut line at four over par after shooting a 75.
Leading the way amongst the Asian contingent was South Korean Byeong Hun An, who lies on two under after consecutive rounds of 70. The 24-year-old’s performance was made even more impressive by the fact that he was one of the afternoon starters.
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Fellow Korean K.T. Kim is a shot further back on one under, alongside India’s Anirban Lahiri, while Japan’s Yuta Ikeda follows on level par.
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