It was a battle of the elements on Friday at the Open Championship, and no one fought harder than Jordan Spieth. After Royal Birkdale saw 39 under-par rounds on Thursday, it yielded just seven on Friday, one belonging to Spieth, who shot a one-under 69 and takes a two-shot lead into the weekend at six-under 134.
The wind whipped and at times the rain poured in Southport, England, during the second round, especially for the afternoon wave of players. That didn't stop Spieth from making birdie on his opening hole to set the tone for the rest of his round. After making bogeys on the third and ninth holes, Spieth got in a zone, chipping-in for par on the 10th hole and making back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th. He bogeyed the demanding 14th, but bounced back with an eagle on the par-5 15th to get to seven under.
Spieth would finish at six under after 36 holes, all while ranking 127th in the field in fairways hit. He's kept himself alive by hitting 23 of 36 greens and capitalizing with the putter, making eight birdies and an eagle over the first two rounds. Since 2015, Spieth has led or co-led in a major in 13 rounds.
First-round co-leader Matt Kuchar shot a one-over 71 in the morning wave, though he was six under through 16 holes. However, he dropped two shots in his final three holes, but still is in solo second, two back of Spieth.
Brooks Koepka, who was tied with Kuchar and Spieth after the opening round, fell to a tie for third, three shots back after carding a two-over 72.
Even-par rounds were at a premium in the demanding conditions, and one of the better 70s of the day belonged to Ian Poulter. He made one birdie, one bogey and 16 pars to get him to three-under 137 through 36 holes to tie Koepka in third. Poulter, who ranks first on tour in scrambling from 10-20 yards, has been excellent around the greens at Royal Birkdale. The Englishman has scrambled for par 13 times, tying for seventh most in the field. He heads into the weekend three strokes back in search of his first major championship.
Another solid even-par 70 came from Scotland’s Richie Ramsay, who is one back of Poulter and Koepka at two-under 138. It’s Ramsay’s seventh appearance at the Open Championship, where he’s missed the cut four times and finished no higher than T-58.
On Thursday, it looked like a second straight early exit in a major was imminent for Rory McIlroy. He had bogeyed five of his first six holes and showed no indication it was going to get better from there. Instead, he played his next 30 holes six-under, including Friday’s round of two-under 68 to play his way back into contention. He sits at one-under 139 through two rounds, five shots back of Spieth.
The round of the day belonged to Zach Johnson, who shot a four-under 66 with just one bogey. Had it not been for Thursday’s five-over 75, the 2015 Open champion could be near the top of the leader board. Still, he’s seven shots back at one-over 141 for the championship.