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History was firmly on Brian Harman’s side as the American attempted to claim his first major title in the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
A stunning second round of 65 meant Harman became the ninth player in the last 40 years to hold a 36-hole lead of five strokes or more in a major, with each of the previous eight going on to win.
World number one Scottie Scheffler was the most recent to do so in last year’s Masters, while Louis Oosthuizen was the last to achieve the feat in the Open; the South African led by five at St Andrews in 2010 and won by seven.
However, nearest challenger Tommy Fleetwood was in no mood to give up the chase in front of his adoring fans, having recently produced rounds of 64 and 67 to force a play-off in the Canadian Open and winning the 2022 Nedbank Golf Challenge from four behind at halfway.
“I’ve put in chases before in the past,” Fleetwood said after a battling second round of 71.
“At the end of the day, if somebody said you’re going out in the last group on Saturday, I don’t care what the situation was or what anybody had shot, I’d have probably taken it.
“I can’t have asked for any more from anybody with all the support they’re giving me out here and everybody is talking about it.”
Shot of the day
Not much beats a hole-in-one, achieved by Travis Smyth on the short 17th, but fellow Australian and defending champion Cameron Smith managed it with a stunning eagle on the 18th to make the cut with a shot to spare.
Round of the day
Brian Harman had some of his competitors wondering which course he was actually playing after carding four birdies and an eagle in a stunning 65.
Quote of the day
We eat a lot of wild meat at my house, so I enjoy butchering, and I do a lot of hunting
Harman when asked to expand on how he followed a missed cut in the Masters by killing a pig and a turkey on his Georgia farm.
Statistic of the day
Not a good omen for Fleetwood or his thousands of fans.
The par-five fifth played as the easiest for the second day running, with two eagles and 62 birdies leading to a scoring average of 4.699.
Fleetwood was one of just 10 players to birdie the 14th, with almost exactly a third of the field (53 players) making bogey and 12 carding a double-bogey six. That resulted in a scoring average of 4.462.
Cloudy with outbreaks of light to moderate rain, with a chance of drier spells at times. Winds gusting up to 19mph. Heavier bursts of rain are possible overnight Saturday and into Sunday.
Key tee times
0855 Robert MacIntyre, Rickie Fowler1425 Rory McIlroy, Max Homa1510 Jason Day, Shubhankar Sharma1520 Min Woo Lee, Sepp Straka1530 Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman