British Open Leaderboard: Matt Kuchar Holds On as Rory McIlroy Surges

USA’s Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler during a practice round REUTERS  Paul Childs

USA’s Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler during a practice round REUTERS Paul Childs

High winds and hard playing conditions battered the best golfers in the world on Friday as scores ballooned during the morning wave at the 146th Open Championship being contested at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.

Matt Kuchar moved to five under at the turn and looked poised to open up a healthy lead as conditions improved in the afternoon but he parred each hole on the back nine to stay level with his compatriots.

"But, in this particular case, we've been out there with our health and safety people, and the only way you can get the ball onto the 10th fairway is to drive it straight over the top of the grandstand and we felt that that was just unsafe". This is the 12th time he has been atop the leaderboard at the end of a round in a major, including the final rounds of the Masters and U.S. Open that he won in 2015.

QUOTEWORTHY: "Obviously, I'm not happy about it because I nearly screwed up my British Open".

Reigning champion Henrik Stenson, whose accommodation was burgled during Thursday's opening round, was two over with Dustin Johnson one worse off, while several big names - including last year's runner-up Phil Mickelson - missed the cut. He dropped his only shot of the day at the 16th before chipping in from a bunker to make an eagle at the 17th.

"That was awesome", were his next words to his caddie.

"I don't think anyone was going to go down there, anyway", said Australia's world No.6.

England's Ian Poulter, runner-up in the 2008 Open on this course, Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Americans Justin Thomas and Charley Hoffman were among a group of players a stroke further back following rounds of 67. Mark O'Meara, a victor at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who is playing in his last British Open, hit the opening tee shot.

"To be under-par for this championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that", he said.

O'Meara's first shot was lost in the gorse, he made a quadruple-bogey 8 and was on his way to an 81. "If I can go out and play a good, quality round of golf in the morning and try to get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par, under par, I'll still be around for the weekend".

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