Bidding to loosen a US stranglehold on golf’s major titles, Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy are leading a European assault on the leaderboard in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie.
All four of those prizes are currently in the hands of Americans, but Fleetwood, last year’s Race to Dubai winner, and four-time major champion McIlroy are gunning for glory this weekend on the Angus coast.
Fleetwood, after a best-of-the-day 65, two shots off the course record he set in last year’s Dunhill Links Championship, is one off the lead, held by US duo Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner.
McIlroy, who finished as the leading amateur here in 2007, is a shot further back after he carded a second consecutive 69.
Fleetwood, who produced an impressive bogey-free effort in miserable wet morning conditions, is bidding to go one better here than his second-place finish in last month’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
“I can’t lie about it. If I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it would be the Open,” said the 27-year-old Englishman. “I’ve never been anywhere near before and winning would be very special.”
McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Royal Birkdale, was forced to abandon his aggressive strategy from the first day due to the change in weather conditions. But the 28-year-old was equally pleased with how he peformed playing a bit more conservatively.
“It was definitely a day where, don’t shoot yourself out of the tournament instead of trying to press on and build a lead or get an advantage,” he said after signing for four birdies.
“I got a few good up-and-downs when I needed to today. On a day like that, you just need to scramble and keep yourself in it. I’m in a great position going into the third day.”
Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, is lurking ominously just three off the lead, as is 2015 Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler, while three-time winner Tiger Woods reckons he can make up a six-shot deficit over the final two days.
Justin Rose, the world No 3, crept into the weekend after making his only birdie of the day at the last, but a host of big names to miss the cut included Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, the two top-ranked players. Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia, first and second here in 2007, also crashed out.