British Open: Fleetwood gets in ahead of the weather

Fleetwood makes the most of benign conditions to set clubhouse target at Portrush

 Tommy Fleetwood of England reacts after his birdie on the 18th at Royal Portrush. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Tommy Fleetwood of England reacts after his birdie on the 18th at Royal Portrush. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

 

The apocalyptic rainfall forecast hadn’t quite reached Royal Portrush by lunchtime on Friday, the early starters greeted with benign conditions, intermittent sunshine and nothing more troubling that a gentle breeze.

A course softened slightly by Thursday’s deluge was another augury for good scoring and several players obliged, not least the overnight leader JB Holmes and Tommy Fleetwood. The Englishman was first to the clubhouse, following up his opening 68 with a 67 for a seven under total.

His round started with a bogey but he shrugged off that setback with a birdie on the second and another on the fifth. The real momentum was established the on the back nine with three birdies in four holes, on the 12th, 13th and 15th before he ran into ‘Calamity,’ the par three, 16th on the Dunluce Links.

He pushed his tee shot right into the ravine, his ball coming to rest some six feet below the green in the fescue. Shortly before his compatriot Tyrell Hatton had to hole a 15-foot putt for a double bogey after whiffing twice in the long grass.

Fleetwood played a glorious rescue shot to about 12 feet but couldn’t confirm the escape and had to settle for a bogey. A birdie on the 18th will make lunch taste a little better.

US PGA champion Brooks Koepka endured one of those rounds that promised more than it delivered, albeit signing for a 69 and a halfway total of five under. He was joined on that mark by Jordan Spieth, the American reaching six under for the tournament following an eagle three on the seventh.

He tagged on just one more birdie from there while conceding a shot to par on the 15th in a 67 that included an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys. He was tantalisingly close on the 17th to another birdie, with a putt that just failed to grab the right edge; he looked like he wanted to bite through the putter.

A logjam was emerging in the pursuit of tournament leader, Holmes, but the Kentuckian wasn’t willing to accommodate his pursuers or certainly give them too much latitude and had reached eight under with four to play.

Australian Cameron Smith, South African Justin Harding, Norway’s Lucas Bjerregaard and England’s Major winner Justin Rose all reached six under with the scoring excellent in general terms.

The projected cut, the top 70 and ties, is one over par although that may change appreciably if the forecast of heavy afternoon showers proves to be accurate. Darren Clarke was one under for the tournament early in his round, while playing partner, the British Amateur champion James Sugrue was on level.

Shane Lowry’s (-5) birdie on the first hole was greeted by a thunderous roar, the Irishman hoping to get as far into his round before any turn in the weather.

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