After an opening day in which the bad rounds got the headlines, Friday finally brought attention to the top end of the leader board at the British Open at Royal Portrush.
While many players continued to struggle off the tee and with the tangled rough, some managed to tame the course.
The clubhouse leader was J.B. Holmes, a five-time Tour winner without a major title. He added a 3-under 68 to his 66 on Thursday to move to eight-under par.
Should Holmes go on to win, he would complete a sweep of golf’s majors this year by Americans, for the first time since 1982.
Tommy Fleetwood of Britain was also an early star, and was easy to spot with his long hair and eye-catching black and white splash-patterned shirt. He started the day at three under and pushed that to seven under with a six birdie, two bogey 67 that finished with a 15-foot birdie putt on 18.
The Guardian reported that Holmes or Fleetwood would become the first bearded winner of the Open since Bob Ferguson in 1882. Shane Lowry, also among the leaders, has a beard as well.
Fleetwood, 28, was runner-up to Brooks Koepka at the United States Open last year and has won four times on the European Tour. But he may be remembered best by American golf fans for his 4-0 record in team play as Europe won last fall’s Ryder Cup.
“It seemed like a much more scoreable morning, but the course doesn’t allow for many birdies so you have to be patient,” he told the BBC.
As for his bold shirt choice, he said: “I thought it was normal, but I’ve had more comments than I thought I would out on the course, so maybe I am more colorful than I thought.”
Koepka, the world No. 1 player and winner of four of the last 10 majors, shot a two-under 69, and finished at five under.
Jordan Spieth, 25, a three-time major winner, shot a four under, despite missing a 10-foot birdie put on No. 18. He also moved to five under for the tournament.
Even Tiger Woods turned it around a little. After his seven-over round Thursday, he was one-under for the day after nine holes on Friday morning, but needed good things to happen on the back nine to make the cut.