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Phil holds on to Open lead

British Open Golf

TROON, United Kingdom (AFP) – Phil Mickelson followed his stunning opening round with a solid 69 in miserable weather conditions at Royal Troon on Friday to lead the British Open at 10 under par at the halfway stage.

The American had been in front overnight after equalling the lowest ever round in a major championship when he shot 63 in glorious conditions on Thursday afternoon.

He was back out early on Friday morning and this time had to deal with the wind and, above all, rain that left the players and the course on Scotland’s west coast sodden.

But he still thrived, with four birdies, including at the short eighth, the Postage Stamp, when he almost holed his tee shot.

There were two bogeys on the back nine, but Mickelson leads by a shot going into the weekend from Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

“I thought it was a good round to back up the low round yesterday. I made one or two bad swings that led to bogeys but for the most part I kept the ball in play and played stress-free golf,’’ said the American, who won the Open at Muirfield in 2013 and admitted he enjoyed the unpleasant conditions that can constitute a Scottish summer.

“I was actually more worried about yesterday’s round than I was about these coming rounds because I feel very comfortable in the conditions to be able to shoot a number, shoot a good score.’’

He might not have said the same about the weather that swept in from the Firth of Clyde in the afternoon, however, and those teeing off after midday toiled as it got wetter and windier.

Stenson was also safely in the clubhouse by then and his stunning 65 was the low score of the day, allowing him to sit second on the leaderboard at nine-under.

The effort, which equalled the late Payne Stewart’s record for the lowest second-round score at Troon, featured seven birdies and just one bogey and gave him every chance of finally winning at a major this weekend. “I haven’t been in contention for the last six majors and that was a big, big goal of mine to try and be up there and give myself a chance. So far, so good,’’ said the 40-year-old, runner-up to Mickelson in 2013.

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