The 151st Open Championship – second-round leaderboard
-10 B Harman (US); -5 T Fleetwood (Eng); -4 S Straka (Aut); -3 MW Lee (Aus), S Sharma (Ind), J Day (Aus)
Selected others: -2 J Spieth (US); -1 M Southgate (Eng), R McIlroy (NI), M Stewart (Sco), M Jordan (Eng); +2 J Rahm (Spa), C Smith (Aus), +3 S Scheffler (US)
England’s Tommy Fleetwood is Brian Harman’s closest challenger after the American hit a sensational six-under-par 65 to lead The Open by five shots.
Harman holed four successive birdies from the second and a 15-foot eagle putt on the 18th to move to 10 under after two rounds at Royal Liverpool.
Joint overnight leader Fleetwood had a level-par 71 to remain five under.
Rory McIlroy’s 70 lifted him to one under, while Tyrrell Hatton had a nine at the last to finish two over after a 73.
It was an extraordinary end to Hatton’s round with the Englishman hitting two tee shots out of bounds on the par-five 18th, with the quadruple-bogey dropping him from two under to two over.
At the other end of the scoring spectrum, Australia’s Travis Smyth hit the first hole-in-one of the Championship, on the par-three 17th.
The 17th was also the scene of a short-lived Just Stop Oil protest. Four people were arrested after a smoke flare was let off and orange powder was scattered near the green.
But Friday belonged to Harman, whose 65 was three shots better than the next best of the early starters and means he is the only player to complete both rounds under par.
His total of 132 shots at the halfway stage matched that of Tiger Woods in 2006 and McIlroy in 2014 here at Royal Liverpool, and they both went on to win.
Harman, who started one shot off the lead after Thursday’s 67, drained putts of 19, 25 and 17 feet on the second, third and fourth holes to go two ahead and a further birdie followed on the par-five fifth.
“I’ve had a hot putter the past couple of days so I’ll try to ride it through the weekend,” said the world number 26, who is bidding to become just the third left-hander to win the Claret Jug, after Bob Charles in 1963 and Phil Mickelson in 2013.
“There were several holes where it could have gone either way on the back nine. I’m fortunate to finish where I did and I’m really pleased with it.”
A run of 12 pars from the sixth was kept going on the 12th when Harman, who finished joint sixth last year at St Andrews, chipped in from the rough to avoid dropping a shot.
And he wrapped up an already superb round with a seven-foot par save on the 17th before drilling a 240-yard second shot into the heart of the par-five 18th green to set up his eagle putt.
Harman finished his round before Fleetwood, who hails from 30 miles up the Merseyside coast, walked on to the first tee to a rousing reception.
And thousands of disciples followed the 32-year-old’s every ball strike as he attempted to make inroads into the American’s lead.
A front nine that yielded one bogey and eight pars left a flat feeling but the loyal hordes were rewarded for traipsing out to the furthest corner of the course, the 10th, which at 511 yards is the longest par four in Open history.
Fleetwood completed it in three shots, the final one a 58-foot birdie putt. The ball was willed on by every watcher and toppled into the hole with its final revolution and the masses celebrated as if he’d won the Claret Jug.
A bogey on the 13th was followed by successive birdies on the 14th and 15th. A late charge in the fading light?
No. Another dropped shot. This time coming after he had to hit sideways out of a fairway bunker on the 16th. An 11-foot putt saved par on the 17th and a six-footer did likewise at the last as he scrambled home.
“It turned into a grind in the end,” said Fleetwood. “For the most part of the round I played really well. I just never got any momentum and didn’t hole any putts, until eventually I had the long one on 10.”
And on the fans, he added: “They’ve been insanely amazing. I’ve loved every minute of playing in front of them, and I can’t thank everybody enough.”
World number one Scottie Scheffler, playing with Fleetwood, narrowly escaped from a bunker on the 18th and holed a short birdie putt to finish on three over, and looks set to squeeze into the weekend with the cut projected to come at that mark.
Fleetwood finished one ahead of Austria’s Sepp Straka, who birdied five of the last six holes to post a 67 and charge into third on four under.
Australian Jason Day also shot a 67 to move into a group on three under, with compatriot Min Woo Lee (68) and India’s Shubhankar Sharma (71).
Former winner Jordan Spieth and US Open champion Wyndham Clark are at two under, while Royal Liverpool member Matthew Jordan, fellow Englishman Matthew Southgate and Scotland’s Michael Stewart are in a group at one under.
McIlroy ‘gave shots away on easier holes’
McIlroy reached halfway for the Championship under par, but only after holing an eight-footer for birdie on the last. The world number two missed two other birdie putts from closer in on a day when his scrambling skills came to the fore.
Six times he putted to save par after failing to reach the green in regulation, including a 14-footer on the 14th.
The four-time major champion had started brightly with two birdies in his opening five holes, but found the going tougher on the back nine, dropping shots on the 11th and par-five 15th.
“I got off to a great start, was a couple under through nine, and then gave those shots away on two of the easier holes on the course, 11 and 15,” said the Northern Irishman.
“But it was nice to at least get one of them back on 18. I might be nine back, but I don’t think there’s going to be a ton of players between me and the lead going into the weekend.”
McIlroy played with world number three Jon Rahm, who bemoaned several missed short putts in his one-under 70 that left him on two over.
“Those are four shots that you can’t give up in major championships,” said the Masters champion. “Two over or two under makes a massive difference right now in the score, and that’s mainly it, luck or fortune aside.”
The third player in that group, England’s Justin Rose, was among several high-profile players who will be going home. He shot a second 74 to finish on six over.
American major winners Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are also out after finishing on nine, 11 and 13 over respectively.