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Dublin: 1 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018
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Spieth copes best in grim conditions to lead British Open

Matt Kuchar looks to be the biggest threat to the American at Royal Birkdale.

Spieth kept his head in horrendous conditions.
Spieth kept his head in horrendous conditions.
Image: Andrew Matthews

JORDAN SPIETH HANDLED the miserable conditions brilliantly in the second round of the British Open on Friday as he took a commanding two-shot lead into the weekend at Royal Birkdale.

The American star survived the driving rain and gusting wind to shoot a one-under-par 69 and sit at six-under at the championship’s halfway point.

That was one of just eight rounds under par as the field toiled in the conditions, and it sufficed for the 23-year-old Texan to hold a two-stroke lead over his fellow American Matt Kuchar, on his own in second place at four under par.

“Honestly, right now I’m happy to be inside, first and foremost,” said Spieth, the Masters and US Open winner in 2015, after his round.

“But I feel great right now. I don’t think I even felt this way at the ’15 Masters after Friday.”

Spieth has plenty of experience of going out in the last group on the weekend in a major, but he admitted he will still feel the nerves when he tees off on Saturday.

“Anytime you’re in the last group on a weekend in a major — and this is, I think, probably a dozen times I’ve had at least a share of the lead in a major championship — you get nervous.

“And I’ll be feeling it this weekend a bit.”

He will go out with Kuchar, with the 39-year-old, who has never won a major, building on his opening 65 that had him in a share of the lead with a solid 71 earlier in the day.

When Kuchar went out it was windy, but at least it stayed dry, and the giant Florida-born player could very well have done better but for two bogeys in the last three holes.

“Conditions were really hard today, certainly what we expect coming over here,” said Kuchar, whose best finish in a major to date is tied third in the Masters in 2012.

The Open Championship 2017 - Day Two - Royal Birkdale Golf Club Koepka's challenge fell back a little. Source: Andrew Matthews

Brooks Koepka had been level with Spieth and Kuchar overnight but the current US Open champion struggled a little more in the afternoon rain — which at one point forced a temporary halt to play as greens became waterlogged.

Koepka ended up with a 72 that saw him drop back to three-under overall, level with England’s Ian Poulter, runner-up at Birkdale in 2008 who shot 70 on Friday.

Scotland’s Richie Ramsay is two-under, while behind him Rory McIlroy has given himself a chance going into the weekend.

The 2014 Open champion built on his strong finish to his opening round on Thursday, when he shot a one-over 71, to fire a 68 that left him at one under par.

On Thursday McIlroy was five-over through his first six holes — on Friday he was three-under after the same stretch.

There were dropped shots at 13 and 15 but a birdie at the long 17th helped complete a satisfactory day for the world number four.

“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.

Stenson shaken by burglary

Reigning Open champion Henrik Stenson will be around for the weekend despite struggling to a 73 after revealing the rental house where he is staying had been burgled.

The incident happened while the Swede was playing his first round on Thursday.

As well as all his clothes for the week, Stenson had other valuables stolen, although his family were not present at the time of the burglary.

“I had to get some new gear and so on. But all in all we’re in good shape. And nothing happened to any person, which is the main thing,” he said.

“I was happy that my family wasn’t there, and maybe a little disappointed I wasn’t. But what can you do?”

Only nine players were under-par after two rounds, with the cut falling at five-over.

Among those missing the weekend was last year’s runner-up Phil Mickelson, but 2015 champion Zach Johnson shot the round of the day with a 66 as he made the cut on one-over.

Padraig Harrington (+6), Darren Clarke (+8) and Shane Lowry (+10) all missed the cut.

(C) AFP 2017

‘This was definitely the round that got me back into the Championship’

Overnight leader Kuchar in strong position as McIlroy marches into contention

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