CARNOUSTIE: Former champion Zach Johnson survived miserable conditions and birdied the 18th for the second day running to seize the clubhouse lead at the British Open, but Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy also excelled early on at Carnoustie on Friday.
The 42-year-old Johnson, who won the Claret Jug at St Andrews in 2015, followed his 69 in the first round with a second-round 67 in the rain, as he moved to six under par for the tournament.
He recovered from a bogey at the first hole of his morning round with five birdies and no more dropped shots after that to lead by a stroke in the clubhouse from Fleetwood.
The latter had briefly surged to the top of the leaderboard at the end of his second round, starting the day one over par before shooting a brilliant six-under-par 65 to go to five-under overall.
That put him level with overnight leader Kevin Kisner of the United States before Kisner began his second round at 12:53pm (1153 GMT).
Fleetwood was already drying off by that point, delighted to also cap his round with a birdie at the difficult 18th hole on the Scottish links.
That was his sixth birdie of a round that was not blemished by a single bogey, with the 27-year-old showing how comfortable he is at a venue where he holds the course record following a 63 at last year's Dunhill Championship.
Friday's effort was surely better than that, given the weather, and the score was also the lowest for the second round of a British Open at this venue.
Now right in contention going into the weekend, Fleetwood can keep an eye on how his rivals fare in the afternoon before assessing whether he really can become the first English golfer to lift the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo back in 1992.
"I never felt at ease all day, but the ball was doing what I wanted it to do," said Fleetwood, who was unable to properly challenge in last year's Open on his home course at Royal Birkdale.
"We are only halfway through the tournament unfortunately. You've got 36 holes to go but there's no point thinking about the end game.
"Thirty-six holes is a long time, it's two days, and for me, I just have to keep doing the same things. If I can hit it like I did today then I'll have a lot of chances going into the weekend."
Kisner, who like Fleetwood is looking for his first major, will not relish playing in weather that is in stark contrast to the perfect summer conditions of Thursday, with the prolonged heatwave on Scotland's east coast coming to an abrupt halt.
Dustin Johnson heading home
Indeed, Fleetwood was one of just two players in the opening seven groups of the day to score under par, the other being fellow Englishman Tom Lewis, who had a one-under 70.
McIlroy went out shortly before 8am and shot his second successive 69 to go to four-under for the tournament, two shots off the clubhouse lead.
The Northern Irishman, looking for his first major since 2014, had four birdies for his day as well as dropped shots at the 13th and 14th holes, and was happy with his effort.
"In those conditions I would've 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," he said.
"There is still a long way to go, but I'm in a great position going into the third day."
It is looking less likely that this tournament will finally be the one where Tiger Woods ends his decade-long major drought, as he was even-par for the tournament on the back nine.
At least he can still hope to be here for the weekend, in contrast to world number one Dustin Johnson, whose underwhelming 72 leaves him six over par for the tournament.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson, the 2016 champion, had a bad day as well, a 75 leaving him three-over, on the projected cut mark.