Date: July 22, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

Open wrap: Spieth fires, Aussies avoid blushes

A poor day was rescued from the jaws of an abominable one for the Australians at Royal Birkdale when the cut line buckled late on day two of The Open.

Jordan Spieth fired a one-under-par 69 to hold sway by two shots at six under par while rain lashed the second round, as the 11-strong Aussie contingent combined for an almost unbelievable 51 over par collectively.

Their best score was 72, a mark shared by Tasmanian debutant Ryan McCarthy and South Australian Adam Bland – both of whom missed the cut after flat opening rounds.

It seemed for a while that Adam Scott (+3 after a four-over-par 74) and Open newcomer Andrew Dodt (+4 after a 75) would be the only Australians to advance.

But as the wild weather took its toll, the cut line stretched out to five over and Jason Day (76), Scott Hend (74), Marc Leishman (76) and Aaron Baddeley (76) were among a large group to earn a reprieve in the top 70 and ties.

But none are realistically in contention in a second consecutive flat major championship after Leishman was the only Aussie to make the cut at last month's US Open.

With the possible exception of Bland and Cam Smith (75 for +9), the Australians were each victims of a bad stretch on a course that just didn't relent with high winds early and driving rain late.

Among those, Victorian Matt Griffin was a prime example.

The major championship debutant was a promising one over par through nine, then dropped seven shots in six holes, including a nasty triple-bogey after an unplayable lie on the par-three 12th.

"It's safe to say that's why they call it the Open and a test for the best players in the world," Griffin told his daily blog afterwards.

"Birkdale was a brute today with that breeze, a strong test from the first hole to the end.

"I was happy with my front nine, made a great putt on nine to get around in a good spot. Probably could have made a couple more putts.

"(But on the) back nine, the wheels fell off for a little while there.

"I made a soft bogey on 10, lost my tee shot on the wind on 12 … went back to the tee, (put it in the) front right trap and had a horrible lie and made a six."

"Hopefully I'll get back here and have another crack," said Griffin after his 77 left him at seven over.

McCarthy was square through 12 holes before a hat-trick of bogeys left him at eight over despite a great second-day effort.

Bland, too, had his moments. The Adelaide product made three birdies in five holes on the back nine.

But he interspersed them with a double-bogey six on the 13th that ultimately was his downfall in his total of seven over.

Ash Hall played the back nine in one under, but had dropped five shots in the four holes from the sixth to end his chances with a 74 to finish +9.

The six who made the cut will need a stark turnaround in fortunes to avoid uncustomarily early tee times on Sunday.

Scott and Day, who closed with two double-bogeys in his final three holes, looked out of sorts and far from their regular major championship composure.

And Leishman, whom many thought would contend this week, could not find a single birdie – highlighting the difficulties of a rugged afternoon.

But those were clearly resolvable for Spieth.

On the rare occasion the dual Australian Open champion found himself in trouble, he seemed to manage something extraordinary, including holing out to save an incredible par on the 10th moments before play was momentarily suspended for flooding.

Second-placed Matt Kuchar held the lead outright a couple of times when he was out early in the second day, but gave back his edge with a couple of late bogeys.

The big moves were made by former champions Zach Johnson (66) and Rory McIlroy (68) after both looked in deep trouble at points of their opening rounds.

McIlroy was five over through his first six holes of the tournament, but forced his way back into the top 10 with a flurry of birdies to finish at one under.