TROON, United Kingdom: Phil Mickelson followed his stunning opening round with a solid 69 in miserable weather conditions at Royal Troon on Friday (Saturday in Manila) to lead the British Open at 10 under par at the halfway stage.
The American had been in front overnight after equaling the lowest ever round in a major championship when he shot 63 in glorious conditions on Thursday afternoon.
He was back out early on Friday morning and this time had to deal with the wind and, above all, rain that left the players and the course on Scotland’s west coast sodden.
But he still thrived, with four birdies, including at the short eighth, the Postage Stamp, when he almost holed his tee shot.
There were two bogeys on the back nine, but Mickelson leads by a shot going into the weekend from Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
“I thought it was a good round to back up the low round yesterday. I made one or two bad swings that led to bogeys but for the most part I kept the ball in play and played stress-free golf,” said the American, who won the Open at Muirfield in 2013 and admitted he enjoyed the unpleasant conditions that can constitute a Scottish summer.
Stenson’s 65 was the low score of the day, allowing him to sit second on the leaderboard at nine-under.
The effort, which equaled the late Payne Stewart’s record for the lowest second-round score at Troon, featured seven birdies and just one bogey and gave him every chance of finally winning at a major this weekend.
His fellow Scandinavian, Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, is joint-third along with American Keegan Bradley on seven-under after both shot 68s.
Next is defending champion Zach Johnson, whose 70 left him at five-under and means he is still in the running to become the first player to win the Claret Jug in successive years since Padraig Harrington in 2007 and 2008.
All these players were out early on Friday, and it was no coincidence that only a small handful of players on the course in the afternoon avoided over-par rounds.
Among those were Rory McIlroy, who had four birdies and four bogeys in a 71 that kept him alongside the likes of Dustin Johnson at two-under, which could yet give him a chance of repeating his 2014 win at Hoylake.
Jason Day also survived the dreich Scottish summer weather, a run of four birdies in five holes on the front nine setting him up for a 70 that put him one-over for the championship.
Jordan Spieth also scraped through on the cut mark of four-over, along with the likes of Graeme McDowell and Masters champion Danny Willett.