The Open 2017: Jordan Spieth leads, Ian Poulter & Rory McIlroy in contention
|2017 Open Championship on the BBC|
|Venue: Royal Birkdale Dates: 20-23 July|
|Live: Listen to BBC Radio 5 live commentary and follow text updates - including in-play video clips - on BBC Sport website and mobile app. TV highlights on BBC Two. Click for full times.|
|-6 Spieth (US); -4 Kuchar (US); -3 Poulter (Eng), Koepka (US); -2 Ramsey (Sco); -1 Connelly (Can), McIlroy (NI), Woodland (US), Bland (Eng)|
|Selected others: Level Watson (US), Matsuyama (Jpn) +2 Fisher (Eng), Canter (Eng), Fitzpatrick (Eng), Garcia (Spa) +3 Casey (Eng), Johnston (Eng), Johnson (US), Rahm (Spa), Wood (Eng); +4 Plant (a) (Eng); +5 Rose (Eng), Fleetwood (Eng) Full leaderboard|
World number three Jordan Spieth shot a one-under-par 69 in testing conditions to take a two-shot lead after two rounds of The Open at Royal Birkdale.
The American, who finished on six under, had to contend with heavy rain, which caused a brief suspension, while gusting wind affected all the players.
Matt Kuchar (71), overnight leader with Spieth and Brooks Koepka, is second.
England's Ian Poulter (70) and US Open champion Koepka (72) are three under, with Rory McIlroy (68) on one under.
Northern Ireland's McIlroy, who was five over after six holes in round one, enjoyed the better of the weather on Friday morning with his two-under-par round putting him right into contention.
England's Richard Bland, 44, briefly tied for the lead on five under but was among the later starters who had to endure the worst of the weather and had three bogeys and a double bogey in his 72 to drop alongside McIlroy.
Scotland's Richie Ramsay is one shot better off after following his opening-round 68 with a 70.
Just eight players were able to post under-par rounds as the wind, which gusted up to 35mph on the Merseyside coast, proved ample defence for the course.
Nine players are left under par for the Championship, 26 fewer than after round one.
Spieth shows how it's done
Two-time major winner Spieth began his round with a birdie on the first, before he was pegged back with bogeys on the third and ninth.
Successive birdies on the 11th and 12th holes were followed by a stunning eagle on the 15th as he opened a three-shot lead, despite heavy rain that left standing water on the greens.
However, he three-putted the 16th from 20 feet for a bogey but parred the final two holes to sign for a 69 to add to his first round 65 and tie for the lowest ever 36-hole score in an Open at Birkdale.
"I give myself a B grade today," said the 23-year-old. "I got pretty frustrated through the turn, hitting it into pot bunker after pot bunker and squeaking out pars somehow.
"I didn't get everything I could out of yesterday's round and I got more than what I deserved today."
Ominously it is the the third time he has opened a major with two rounds in the 60s, he won the Masters and US Open on the other two occasions.
Poulter & McIlroy in contention
Poulter, who began the day on three under, carded a solid 70 which included one bogey and one birdie.
The bogey came on the 16th and was his first in 26 holes.
"I have nothing to lose," said Poulter, who finished runner-up at Birkdale in 2008. "I qualified to get in and I am going to try and go out there and grab it with two hands.
"I'm pumped up and ready to go out there toe-to-toe with anyone this weekend."
He added: "I'm pulling hard this week on memories of how I remember 2008."
Four-time major winner McIlroy knocked in three birdies in his first six holes on Friday to push him up the leaderboard, but the 2014 champion was pegged back with bogeys on the 13th and 15th, before a birdie on the 17th saw him under par at halfway.
He said: "To be in after two days and be under par for this championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that."
McIlroy added that his second round was "right up there," with his best rounds at The Open.
"I couldn't ask to be in a better position after yesterday, having been five over through six yesterday and now be in the clubhouse after two rounds under par," he said.
Best of the rest
Former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie said on BBC Radio 5 live that "anyone within 10 shots has a chance" heading into the final two rounds.
England's Paul Casey, who turned 40 on Friday, and had been in second place overnight on four under, is one player in that category, although he had seven bogeys in his 77 to finish on three over.
He sits alongside England's Andrew Johnston (74), world number one Dustin Johnson (72), Irish Open champion Jon Rahm (74) and Australia's Adam Scott (74).
Johnson, who bogeyed the last, after finding one of Birkdale's 123 bunkers, conceded: "I wish I could blame it on the wind. I'm just struggling a bit with the irons, not hitting the shots I wanted to."
Two-time champion Ernie Els (73) of South Africa was three over for the day to drop to one over alongside 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who shot the lowest round of the day with a four-under 66.
England's Ross Fisher's 72 saw him drop to two over, alongside Masters champion Sergio Garcia (69) and American Rickie Fowler (71).
Defending champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden is also two over after his 73, a day after his rental house was burgled while he played his first round.
Plant wins low amateur prize
Londoner Alfie Plant is guaranteed the silver medal, awarded to the leading amateur, because he is the only one to make the cut. The 25-year-old eagled the par-five 15th on his way to a 73 to add to his first round 71.
Plant has a 150-strong 'fan club' of family and friends wearing #TeamAlfie T-shirts following him round the course.
He said: "It's been brilliant. I hope the weather changes because I'm sure they'll be a lot louder."
When it was pointed out previous silver medal winners include Tiger Woods and McIlroy, Plant added: "That's not bad is it? Hopefully I'll follow in their footsteps."
Who missed the cut and who sneaked in?
Seventy-seven of the 156 players who started the Open have made the halfway cut - which is the top 70 players, plus ties and came at five over par.
A host of big names finished on that mark to make the weekend, with Olympic champion Justin Rose (74), former Masters champion Danny Willett (74) and fellow Englishmen Lee Westwood (74) and Tommy Fleetwood - who birdied the 15th and finished with three pars for a one-under 69.
Australia's Jason Day also sneaks in after the world number six shot a 76 along with two more Englishmen, Andy Sullivan and Toby Tree and Scotland's David Drysdale.
Former Open champion Phil Micklelson was one of the biggest casualties, missing the cut at The Open for just the fifth time in 24 starts, after a 77 left him on 10 over.
"The five-time major winner quipped: "Unfortunately it's the first cut I've missed this year and I missed it with flair."
Scotland's Martin Laird had five bogeys and two double bogeys in his 79 to fall to seven over, while 1999 champion Paul Lawrie (79) finished nine over.
Padraig Harrington, who won the Open the last time it was played at Birkdale missed the cut by one shot, while 2011 champion Darren Clarke also missed out.
Wales Stuart Manley who had been two under after the first round on his Open debut, had seven bogeys and three double bogeys to card an 11-over 81.