Left-hander Brian Harman was right-on.
Harman eagled the last hole to cap a bogey-free, six-under-par 65 in breezy conditions and take a five-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood of England midway through the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, Wirral, England.
“I made two really nice pars on 16 and 17,” said Harman, who has won four times as a professional but is seeking his first major title. “That’s just as important, to where I felt kind of freed up on 18, and I made probably my two best swings of the day, and got up there to 12, 15 feet for eagle.
“It’s just golf. I think when I held the 54-hole lead at the (2017) U.S. Open, I just probably thought about it too much. I just didn’t focus on getting sleep and eating right. So that would be my focus this weekend.
“I love the golf over here. I was really excited and I think I missed four or five cuts in a row coming over here, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t playing well. Then the last couple of years, I had some good finishes.”
The 36-year-old Harman birdied four holes in a row through No. 5 before running off 12 consecutive pars ahead of his 15-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to record a 36-hole score of 10-under-par 132, which includes only one bogey in the first round.
Fleetwood, who held a share of the first-round lead with a 66, salvaged a 71 with his only three birdies on the back nine and a clutch par putt on the final hole, while Sepp Straka of Austria birdied six of the last seven holes in a 67 and is six shots behind in solo third.
“Yeah, it turned into a grind in the end,” said Fleetwood, who claimed the last of his nine professional victories in the 2022 Nedbank Golf Challenge. “I actually think for the most part of the round I played, I actually felt like I played really, really well. I just never got any momentum built and didn’t hole any putts, until eventually I had the long one on 10.
“I felt like I played well for a lot of it, but just in the end it was hard. One mistake on No. 16 with the tee shot; the bunkers are the ultimate hazards. But at the same time, the way that I started the round yesterday where I felt like I had to grind it out a little bit, today was the finish where I felt like I had to do that, and that’s just as satisfying as playing great.
“I just stuck in there and overall level par wasn’t really a bad round today. It feels good.”
Said Straka, who won the John Deere Classic in July for his third pro victory: “I gave myself a lot of birdie putts, which is key, and then putter got hot on the back nine. I really couldn’t have asked for more. I played really nice.
“You’ve got to give yourself looks, and it’s not easy to come by looks. On top of that the putter was hot, so it was a nice combination.”
Jason Day of Australia, the 2015 PGA champion, made two birdies early and two more late in a 67, and is seven back in a tie for fourth with Min Woo Lee of South Korea, who eagled the fifth hole and added three birdies in a 68, and Shubhankar Sharma of India, who birdied the last hole for a 71.
Jordan Spieth, who won the 2017 Open Championship, made three birdies on the front nine and three bogeys on the back in a 71 and is eight strokes down in a tie for seventh with Cameron Young, the PGA Tour Rookie of thee Year last season who had four birdies on the first 10 holes and another on the last in a 68; Adrian Otaegui of Spain, who had two bogeys and no birdies in a 73, and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, who also had part of the first-round lead but made only two birdies while struggling to a second-round 74.
Second-ranked Rory McIlroy, who won the 2014 Open at Royal Liverpool, birdied the first and last holes in a 70 and is in a tie for 11th that includes eighth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, who made three straight birdies to end the front nine in a 73, and reigning U.S. Open champion and 10th-ranked Wyndham Clark, who made his only two birdies on the back nine in another 73.
Fifth-ranked Viktor Hovland is tied for 24th after making a birdie on the last hole for a 72, while Masters champion and third-ranked Jon Rahm rallied from an opening with a 70 that included two late birdies and is in a tie for 39th that includes Xander Schauffele, who birdied the last hole to salvage a 74; defending champion and seventh-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia, who eagled the last hole for a second 72, and ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who had two early birdies but made a late double-bogey to shoot another 72.
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler made a birdie on the last hole to cap a 75 and make the cut on the number in a tie for 62nd that includes fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who birdied No. 17 in a 75, and reigning PGA champion Brooks Koepka, who made a double bogey 7 on the last hole but still made it to the weekend after yet another 75.
For complete results and third-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard