Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy were among the players to score well in much damper, dreicher conditions during Friday morning.
The persistent rain and cold made for softer fairways and slower, receptive greens – a combination that seemed to suit course record holder Tommy Fleetwood as he cruised to a bogey-free six-under 65 during the second round of the 147th Open.
He set the clubhouse target thanks to a final hole birdie, but he was quickly over-taken as 2015 Open Champion Zach Johnson rolled in a lengthy birdie putt to finish his day in an identical manner just four groups later.
Johnson began the day with a dropped shot but quickly responded with three birdies in his next five holes, moving to four-under par and one shot behind overnight leader Kevin Kisner.
He ended a run of seven pars with a birdie at the par-five 14th Spectacles hole before a final gain at the 18th moved him in to the lead.
After his round, Johnson said he thought the conditions were more manageable than on the warm, baked out Thursday - although he felt the only difference in his game between the first two days was his performance on the greens.
“I probably played equally as well yesterday” Johnson said. “I thought the conditions -- I guess there was some rain, but I felt they were more manageable today. I don't know what the scores are showing.”
“Different, but more manageable in the sense that you could predict where your ball would end up off of the tee easier because of the rain -- or whatever you want to call it, mild saturation.
“Maybe a little more predictable on your approach shots, maybe. And certainly the greens were about the same. I mean, I putted probably a little bit better today. I mean, if I go through my round yesterday, there really wasn't a whole lot of difference. It's just that I made more putts today.”
Tommy Fleetwood posts low round of the morning with a six-under 65
Less than a year after he posted a 63 at Carnoustie to claim the course record during the Dunhill Links, Tommy Fleetwood carded the low-round of the morning to make the biggest move up the leaderboard on Friday.
Six birdies in a bogey free round that included 26 putts made for a relatively comfortable round of golf for the 2017 Race to Dubai champion as he put himself firmly back in contention.
“I struggled yesterday tee to green, and it was hard work really to just get in. I mean, it was a good 1-over in the end even though I bogeyed 16 and 17. I had some time on the range last night and came out today and just did a lot better basically. Put it in position all day and holed a few putts in tough conditions at 65 yards. It's a really good round of golf really here in the end.
“I drove it much better today. You've still got to complete the hole from there, but it makes a big difference if you're not 30 yards in the rough hacking out.
For Fleetwood, it was all about getting himself back in to a better position to contend over the weekend, although he did admit he didn't feel entirely comfortable over the ball during his round.
“Today's been a round where I've put myself back in the tournament, and I've just got to move on from there really. But just try and keep doing the same things. If I can hit it like I did today, then, obviously, I'm going to have a lot of chances coming in over the weekend, and we'll see where that takes me.”
“I was hitting it a lot better, but I still never felt fully comfortable out there. A lot of the shots, I was just looking up, and I was really happy that they were going straight. I didn't feel fully confident and fully comfortable in my swing. So there's still a bit of work to do there.
“So it never really -- I never felt at ease all day. But the ball was doing what I wanted it to do.
"It's no course record, but it will do for today."
Rory adapts aggressive strategy to fit with conditions, posts two-under 69
For Rory, it was a more much conservative strategy than during the opening round at Carnoustie as he matched his first-round score to finish two-shots behind current leader Zach Johnson.
He said that with softer fairways the ball wasn’t running as far and meant bunkers were in play with his driver, so he had to adjust his game plan.
“under those conditions, I would have taken that score today going out. It wasn't that bad, but it was just damp enough and cold enough that the game plan that I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I just couldn't do it. All the bunkers were in play.”
“And then with it being wet, with the ball being wet and the club face, the possibility of that getting wet, you know, the spin rate goes right on on the driver, and it could start to go either way.
“So a lot more irons off tees and a lot more conservative, but ended up being the same score. So I'm pretty pleased with that.”
“I feel good. I hit the ball better. I hit a lot of really good iron shots today, especially short and mid-irons, and I putted well. So that combination is hopefully going to do well over the weekend.
And as he heads in to weekend, McIlroy appeared confident about his ability to post an even-lower round.
“I feel like there is low rounds in me. I felt very comfortable out there. I played within myself. I haven't taken on too much. It has felt -- I don't want to say easy, but it's felt comfortable. So if I can get on a run or get off to a fast start in the next couple of days, I don't see a ridiculously low score out there, but I definitely see something like what Tommy shot today, a 66 or a 65. I think that would be -- I think I'm capable of that, yeah.”
Speaking about the course and weather conditions, Rory said that the ball was travelling a lot shorter as the fairways became less fiery.
“The fairways definitely didn't have as much fire in them. But it was cold as well. So the ball just wasn't going very far. I was surprised there was a couple of holes where I thought I'd hit shots that were going to end up in a fairway bunker or close to it, and they were a good bit short of that.
“So I think the fire has been taken a little bit out of the fairways and the greens as well, but the greens have been sort of receptive all week. Even yesterday, they're so much greener than the fairways. You still have to judge that first big hop that you get and even more so in the wet because it's going to skid off the top of the surface.”
Elsewhere, World No.1 Dustin Johnson looked to be making a comeback before going bogey, double-bogey on his final holes to drop back to +6 as he ends his tournament early.
He'll likely be joined by Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker and Justin Thomas, who started the day two-under but carded three double-bogeys in a row from the 6th and finished with a six-over 77... currently two shots outside the predicted cut-line.