Sunday, 19 August, 2018

McIlroy 'still in it' after recovering from terrible start at The Open

Spieth among American trio leading at British Open Stuart Franklin Getty Images
Frederick Owens | 23 July, 2017, 10:24

Everyone is on their own when the British Open begins on Thursday, and Spieth is looking sharp enough to be listed as a co-favorite with Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world.

Having looked like the wisest of old hands on Friday, he is now the clear favourite for Open glory. Kuchar, playing in the same final group, shot a 66.

Koepka hadn't played since he won the US Open last month but he picked up in Southport where he left off at Erin Hills as his bid to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win both Opens on either side of the Atlantic in the same season got off to a fine start. The elder American diligently kept pace with the two-time major champion, however, and was finally able to close the gap to a single shot on the 14 hole, sinking a wonderfully measured shot from 12 feet out for his fifth birdie of the round.

After a lovely day that made for flawless scoring conditions, some weather is moving into the British Open.

All is well with the double major champion's golf and the rigorous examination of Birkdale was one that he approached with eager gusto.

But while Spieth held his nerve to register to one last birdie from further out on the last shot of the day, Kuchar lost his.

Phachara Khongwatmai plays a shot out of the tall grass - a place he found himself too often on Day 1 of The Open.

Brooks Koepka is another two shots back. Even though those players in the afternoon wave got a little wet, they likely got the better of the round's conditions. Coming off three missed cuts in his last four events, he was 5 over through six holes when his caddie gave him a pep talk.

Ian Poulter got big cheers from the home crowd as he made his way around.

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The 39-year-old Kuchar, who has yet to win a major championship, is four under-par after two rounds, with Spieth and Koepka sat on five under from their opening rounds. But he missed an 8-footer on No. 16 and could not birdie the reachable 17th hole.

World No. 3 Spieth, though, thinks the traditional Open weather lottery could discount half the field straight away.

Matt Kuchar moved into a tie for the lead in the British Open - but only for the briefest of moments. But Spieth had a tap-in for a birdie of his own, and quickly regained the top spot at 7 under.

With a bogey to his name on the previous hole, he seemed to be losing his way, only to respond with a moment of sheer genius - a perfectly judged chip salvaging the most unlikely of pars. He owns the clubhouse lead after a three-under 67. Spieth was 6 under through two rounds after an opening 65 followed by a 69.

He added: "I would have given anything after six holes yesterday just to be here".

Pádraig Harrington, the 2008 champion at Birkdale, made a courageous effort to hole a 20-yard pitch from off the green at the last to make the weekend, but the ball finished a couple of inches away from the cup.

"I lined up way left with the wind whipping off the left", said Spieth. He said sometimes it helps not to know records. Only eight players broke par, and some were shellshocked, like former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Grace put it to within 2 feet for his final putt.

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