Joy of six for leaders Kisner and Johnson
Six was the magic number as a pair of Americans with vastly different amounts of Open experience take the lead into the weekend at Carnoustie.
The 2015 Champion Golfer of the Year Zach Johnson, who has finished in the top 20 for seven of the last eight years, and Kevin Kisner – whose best Open showing in three appearances is tied-54th – sit atop the leaderboard on six-under.
Kisner’s second round went from spectacular to solid on the 18th, as a double-bogey six turned a potential 68 and a two-stroke advantage on the field into a 70 and a share of the lead.
A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, the 34-year-old concedes the majors are a whole different beast but insists he won’t lose any sleep through anxiety.
“I just think the focus probably intensifies on the golf course at a major,” he explained. “You can get caught in the repetition of the PGA Tour, or any tour, playing week to week and knowing there's always next week.
“But as the majors come about, you've put a lot of prep into your year to get ready for these and you really want to be concentrated when it comes to these tournaments.
“I sleep pretty well at night. I'm always anxious when I wake up but it doesn't affect my sleep a whole lot.”
Kisner’s round came in the slightly more straightforward afternoon conditions, when the rain eased off and the sun dried the course out, while Johnson successfully battled the weather in the morning to record his 67 – and is happy to be flying under the radar.
A number of players used the friendly afternoon tee times to make hay as Pat Perez’s 68 put him one stroke behind the leading duo, while Xander Schauffele (66) did likewise.
Perez claims the focus will be on others, with no-one seeing him as a threat – which suits the 42-year-old down to the ground.
“The best part for me is no-one thinks that I can win. For me, that makes it easier to play,” said Perez.
“I don't have any pressure. I'm not Rory [McIlroy] and Tiger [Woods] and these guys that have won so many times, and they have the pressure of winning more of them.
“I'd like to do well and if I win, that would be amazing. I'd like to stay steady for 36 more holes and if I happen to be there somewhat near the end, that would be incredible.”
Tommy Fleetwood’s 65 – that means he joins Perez and Schauffele at -5 – was all the more impressive as it came in the morning and you can read his thoughts right here.
A five-strong group two strokes back at four-under includes Rory McIlroy – who spoke about his patience in shooting a second straight 69 – South African duo Erik van Rooyen (71) and Zander Lombard (71), Tony Finau (71) and last year’s runner-up Matt Kuchar.
The nearly man
Veteran American Kuchar carded a three-under-par 68 and is relishing being in contention at The Open once more.
“I do enjoy The Open and always have,” he said. “It’s awfully nice to be making cuts and more than making cuts, being in contention, having chances to win.
“There’s so much history and such a big part of the game is coming to The Open. To do well, it's a thrill.
“I'm pleased to find myself back in contention. Last year was awfully close and I had a taste of it. I'd certainly like on Sunday to be right back in that same position.”
Reigning Champion Golfer Jordan Spieth’s quest to retain the Claret Jug is still very much alive after an impressive 67 moved him three shots off the lead at -3.
Kevin Chappell and popular American Rickie Fowler are level with Spieth at -3 after both shooting 69s, although Fowler missed a short birdie putt on the last to close within two of Johnson and Kisner.
Rickie feels at home
Fowler is still hunting for his first major but he has finished in the top-five on eight occasions and feels completely at home competing at the business end of The Open.
“It just continues to feel more and more comfortable,” he said. “Just like anything, the more you do something over and over, it starts to feel like routine in a way, but in a good way.
“This is where we all want to be. Everyone wants to perform at their best at the majors, find a way to get in contention and have a chance come Sunday.
“So that's the plan. I'm looking forward to it – we're in a great spot with two rounds left.”
The likes of 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett (71) and Scottish Open winner Brandon Stone (72) are at two-under, while US Open champion Brooks Koepka (69) and Adam Scott (70) are part of a group still within striking distance a stroke further back.
A star-studded cast then sit at level-par, including world No.9 Jason Day (71), 2013 Champion Golfer Phil Mickelson (69) and 14-time major winner Tiger Woods (71) – who insists he is still in contention, although regretting missed opportunities from Friday’s second round.
And the cut ultimately came at +3, with Justin Rose birdieing the last to make the weekend, although we’ve run you through some names who won’t be here on Saturday.
Top of the Day 2 leaderboard
T1. Zach Johnson -6
T1. Kevin Kisner -6
T3. Tommy Fleetwood -5
T3. Pat Perez -5
T3. Xander Schauffele -5
T6. Rory McIlroy -4
T6. Erik van Rooyen -4
T6. Matt Kuchar -4
T6. Tony Finau -4
T6. Zander Lombard -4
T11. Kevin Chappell -3
T11. Jordan Spieth -3
T11. Rickie Fowler -3
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