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Jordan Spieth toughs out windy, rainy conditions to lead British Open

Jordan Spieth plays out of the bunker on

Jordan Spieth plays out of the bunker on the 14th hole during the British Open at Royal Birkdale on Friday, July 21, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Alastair Grant

SOUTHPORT, England — With a 2:48 p.m. starting time, Jordan Spieth could watch a bunch of the British Open on television before he showed up at Royal Birkdale.

Wind, rain, cold, the type of weather associated with links golf, was on his horizon. He wasn’t exactly excited about playing. “I would gladly have stayed on the couch,” he said. “Even par? I would have loved that.”

But Spieth, his umbrella as difficult to control as his shots, hung on and hung on Friday during the wind-blown, rain-doused second round of the 146th British Open.

His 1-under-par 69 gave him a 36-hole score of 6-under 134. That was two ahead of Matt Kuchar, who with an early tee time was one of those Spieth watched on TV. Kuchar got home with with a 1-over 71.

Brooks Koepka, who shared the opening-day lead with Spieth and Kuchar, shot 72 and at 137 was tied with Ian Poulter, who shot even-par 70. Rory McIlroy made his presence known with a 68 for 139.

McIlroy, taking expletive-filled inspiration from his long-time caddie J.P. Fitzgerald after he made bogey on five of the first six holes in the first round, is very much part of a tournament.

Phil Mickelson won’t be. Mickelson had eight bogeys and a triple-bogey for 77 for a 10-over 150 that missed the cut, which was five-over 145. “I didn’t adjust,” said Mickelson, whose last victory was in the 2013 Open at Muirfield.

Justin Thomas, Spieth’s pal, shot a 63 in the third round of the U.S. Open last month. On Friday he made a quintuple bogey 9 on the sixth hole and ended up with a 43-37 — 80 and 147.

Zach Johnson, who won the 2015 Open at St. Andrews where Spieth missed a playoff by a shot, is at 141 after a day’s-best 66. Johnson was done before the rain, but like Kuchar he played in the strongest wind. “I made a nice par on one,” said Johnson, “and after that I think I might have hit one errant shot.”

A strong performance in what might be described as all too typical Open weather.

“Last year on Friday at Troon was worse; it came down in sheets,” said Spieth.

Spieth, winner of the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015, is brilliant with a wedge and a putter. He saved par on 10, then he eagled the par-five 15th, although that was on the strength of a slightly mis-hit 3 wood.

“I lined up way left with the wind whipping off the left,” said Spieth. “I hit it low off the heel — one hop, scooted around the group of bunkers there, and it was obviously fortunate to get all the way to the green. We knew it was pretty lucky. I got away with one there.”

Links golf, with the bounces and conditions, can be lucky golf. But Jack Nicklaus used to say the better golfers always seem to get the good bounces.

Kuchar, without a bogey Thursday, made four bogeys Friday. “It’s going to happen,” he said. “You hate to give away shots.”

Spieth gave away four with bogeys, but had three birdies and that eagle. Playing in the storm a year ago at Troon toughened him mentally. “We talked about it today and said this isn’t even how bad it was a Troon,” said Speith.

At the Open, it’s all a matter of perspective.

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