Golf

Kuchar in strong position 
as McIlroy recovers

Overnight joint leader Matt Kuchar survived blustery conditions yesterday to shoot a second-round 71 that left him in a strong position on four under par at the halfway stage at the British Open.

The American had ended Thursday in a share of the lead at five-under alongside compatriots Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka after a flawless opening 65 that gave him some leeway as the winds blew across the Royal Birkdale course throughout his second round.

Kuchar, a strapping 39-year-old who has never won a Major, produced a mixed bag of a round with four bogeys and three birdies and endured a particularly disappointing finish, dropping shots at two of the last three holes.

But he is now set up perfectly to be one of the contenders for the Claret Jug heading into the weekend, while Spieth and Koepka were among those left to face the prospect of more unpleasant weather later on.

"Conditions were really hard today, certainly what we expect coming over here," said the Florida-born Kuchar, whose best finish in a Major was tied third in the Masters in 2012.

"It was nearly the opposite wind of what we had yesterday. So the course played completely differently. It was quite a trying, challenging day."

Scotland's Richie Ramsay, playing with Kuchar, shot a level-par round of 70 to remain at two-under for the championship, while behind him Rory McIlroy has given himself a chance.

Conditions were really hard today,
certainly what we expect coming over here.
America's Matt Kuchar, on the blustery weather at the British Open

The 2014 Open champion at Hoylake built on his strong finish to his opening round on Thursday, when he shot a one-over 71, to fire a 68 that put him safely in the clubhouse at one under par.

On Thursday, McIlroy was five-over through his first six holes - yesterday, he was three under par after the same stretch.

There were dropped shots at 13 and 15 but a birdie at the long 17th helped complete a largely satisfactory day for the world No. 4.

"To be in after two days and be under-par for this championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that," said McIlroy.

Playing alongside McIlroy, former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel had ended up eight over par for the day and at plus-four for the championship.

Nevertheless, he remains hopeful of making the weekend, as does world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who is three-over after a 72. - AFP

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