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Louis Oosthuizen grabs Open lead at 11-under

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Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa set a new Open Championship 36-hole scoring record with an 11-under 129, cruising past Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth on Friday for the second-round lead at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England.

Building on a first-round 64 to begin Friday atop the leaderboard, Oosthuizen carded a 5-under 65 with four birdies and an eagle. He missed a birdie putt on No. 18 for a 128, which would have tied the 36-hole record across all majors. The previous Open record of 130 was held by Nick Faldo (1992) and Brandt Snedeker (2012).

The 2010 Open champion enters the weekend two strokes ahead of Morikawa (64 Friday) and three ahead of Spieth (67). World No. 1 Dustin Johnson made seven birdies late in the day for a 65, tying Scottie Scheffler (66) and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli (67) for fourth at 7 under.

Oosthuizen captured the outright lead with a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch on Nos. 12-14. He spun his approach on the 12th to two feet of the pin for the first of two birdies. On the par-5 14th, he played two flawless shots to reach the green and then sank a lengthy eagle putt. He remained bogey-free for the first 33 holes until a missed par putt Friday at the par-3 16th hole.

It’s the fifth time in the past nine major rounds that Oosthuizen earned at least a share of the lead. That includes temporary leads at both the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open — where he finished runner-up each time.

“Look, in the lead two rounds to go, there’s probably a little bit more pressure on you,” Oosthuizen said on the Golf Channel broadcast. “But 36 holes around this golf course can change very quickly and a two-shot lead is not a lot, so I just need to play well the next two days.”

Playing a few groups ahead of Oosthuizen, Spieth made three birdies and a bogey over his first four holes. He managed two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 12 to briefly tie Morikawa’s lead but played the final seven holes 1 over par.

“I just didn’t stay focused like I was early in the round. Wasn’t very sharp,” Spieth said. “It’s an easy solution for tomorrow … But today was an afternoon where I was looking — I was eyeing a number lower than what I finished at, as Louis is showing.”

Morikawa was dialed in with his irons and wedges to grab the midday lead, hitting 15 greens in regulation and setting up short birdie putts on Nos. 5, 9 and 14. He birdied seven of his first 14 holes and was on pace to challenge Branden Grace’s single-round major record of 62 at the 2017 Open.

But Morikawa three-putted for bogey on No. 15 and missed birdie putts on the last three holes to settle for 64, taking a three-shot lead into the clubhouse.

Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship in his tournament debut, the first of seven majors in a 12-month stretch concluding at the Open after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world golf schedule to reshuffle. Now, in his Open debut, he’ll play with Oosthuizen in the final pairing on Saturday.

“I look at (majors) as obviously they’re starred,” Morikawa said. “We have four of them a year, and you’re trying to definitely win these four because they’re that big.

“For me, it’s just let’s go figure out this golf course Monday through Wednesday like I have been the past couple years, and figure it out on what I need to do to play well.”

Johnson, Spaniard Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka made late-afternoon pushes up the leaderboard as Friday’s sunny conditions allowed for several low numbers. Rahm polished off a bogey-free 64, and Koepka birdied his final three holes to card a 66 as both reached 5 under for the week.

Five players were tied for seventh at 6 under, including Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who also posted a 64 that included nine birdies. His approach into the final green glanced a slope with some side-spin, rolled left and touched the cup, just missing a hole-out eagle that would have handed him a surprise 63.

Jonathan Thomson, a 6-foot-9 Englishman, carded the first ace of the championship on No. 16 by bouncing his shot off a slope in front of the green and rolling it in the side door.

Seventy-seven players qualified for the weekend at 1 over or better. Notable players to miss the cut included Englishman Tyrrell Hatton (2 over), Patrick Cantlay (3 over), Patrick Reed (3 over) and Phil Mickelson (12 over).

Hatton badly missed the 18th green with his second shot and snapped his iron in half. Earlier in the round, he was seen giving the middle finger to someone in the gallery.

Bryson DeChambeau saved crucial pars on his last two holes to record a 70 and make the cut on the number at 1 over. A day after some public drama in which he said his driver “sucks” and his equipment representative criticized him over it, DeChambeau drove the ball far more accurately, hitting 10 fairways in regulation after just four Thursday.

–By Adam Zielonka, Field Level Media

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