Louis Oosthuizen leads the Open at the halfway stage

Credit: AFP

Louis Oosthuizen set a 36-hole record to lead the Open at the halfway stage. Oosthuizen broke away from a three-way tie with a birdie-birdie-eagle run from the 12th hole. He shrugged off his first bogey of the week for a 5-under 65 and a two-stroke lead on Friday.

Former PGA champion Collin Morikawa had a 64 and was two shots behind while Jordan Spieth (67) is not far behind. Lurking was two-time major champion Dustin Johnson, the No 1 player in the world who shot 65.

Oosthuizen will start the weekend at 11-under having broke the record first set by Nick Faldo in 1992 at Muirfield and matched by Brandt Snedeker in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Morikawa made seven birdies in his first 14 holes as part of a clinic in iron play. He missed a 5-foot par putt on No. 15 and had a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole catch the lip.

One shot behind an eclectic mix of players at 6 under including two more South Africans in Justin Harding and Daniel Van Tonder were Rahm (64) and Brooks Koepka.

Koepka made four birdies in his last five holes for a 66, then continued his feud with Bryson DeChambeau with perhaps the best shot of his round.

During a television interview, Koepka said he was driving it great, adding: "I love my driver" a clear nod at DeChambeau, who complained on Thursday that his driver "sucks."

DeChambeau just made it to the weekend at Royal St. George’s by shooting a 70, which saw him make the cut on the number at 1 over. Rory McIlroy did, too, needing a birdie on the final hole for another 70. He was 11 shots behind.

Other big names weren’t so lucky: No. 7 Patrick Cantlay, No. 9 Patrick Reed, former Open champions Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson, and Darren Clarke, the 2011 champion at Royal St. George’s, all missed the cut.

When does it start? 

The first round began on Thursday 15 July and the final round is on Sunday 18 July. 

What TV channel is it on?

Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event now have exclusive live coverage of The Open. Coverage begins on Saturday at 9am and lasts until 8pm. Alternatively, you can bookmark this page and return to follow all the action on our dedicated live blog. 

What do we know about Royal St George’s? 

A classical links on England’s south east coast, St George’s most distinctive feature is the rolling undulations of the fairways, which can kick a seemingly good drive into trouble. It also features a number of blind shots, in contrast to venues such as Royal Birkdale which are very much all in front of the player. 

James Bond author Ian Fleming was one of the club’s famous members. 

The course will measure 7,189 yards and play as a par 70 for the tournament. 

The greatest walk in golf is ready for the greatest players in golf ⛳️ #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/D3Qxiyz5sP

— The Open (@TheOpen) July 11, 2021

What is the weather forecast? 

The last few weeks have seen plenty of rain leaving the course looking quite lush and green by the standards of summer. 

The weather is due to be glorious on both Saturday and Sunday as a heat wave crashes over southern England. Temperatures will reach 22 degrees on Saturday before soaring to 26 degrees on Sunday.

What is the latest with withdrawals? 

The field took two hits before proceedings began as Masters champions Hideki Matsuyama and Bubba Watson withdrew.

Matsuyama, who tested positive for COVID-19 after the first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic on July 2, won’t travel due to United Kingdom health protocols.

The reigning Masters champ has remained quarantined since and hasn’t shown symptoms, but continues to test positive on PCR tests.

Please read… pic.twitter.com/ryN6tDL2TU

— bubba watson (@bubbawatson) July 11, 2021

"I’m feeling fine but haven’t been able to practice in preparation for The Open," said Matsuyama in a statement. "Combining that with the difficult travel to the UK, my team and I have decided it’s best to withdraw to ensure everyone’s safety."

Matsuyama will focus on the Tokyo Olympics, which begins its golf competition on July 29.

Watson, a two-time Masters winner, withdrew after having direct contact with someone who tested positive.

"While I am vaccinated and have passed the required pre-travel Covid test, not enough time has passed for me to comfortably join the charter flight and risk exposure to the other players and personnel on board," explained Watson.

They’ll be replaced in the field with Americans Harold Varner III and Brendan Steele. Two more Americans, John Catlin and Adam Long, are now the first and second alternates.

What are our writers saying? 

You can read Oliver Brown’s thoughts on Bryson DeChambeau’s poor display here:

Even after an abject mea culpa, Bryson DeChambeau found there was still no pleasing some people. Never mind that he had worn full sackcloth and ashes for berating the deficiencies of his Cobra driver, helpfully clarifying that “I sucked today, not my equipment”, the merry patrons at a sun-bleached Sandwich still struggled to embrace him. When, on the 10th tee, he reached for his hybrid, rather than the 46-inch blunderbuss that they had come to watch him blast 400 yards into knee-high fescue, some audibly groaned. “Come on guys,” he replied, wondering what, in his PR efforts as much as in his long game, he needed to do to catch a break.

All told, they were letting him off lightly. When he had choked down to a four-iron for his opening drive, they welcomed him with a welter of ironic boos. There was a pantomime element to this, but DeChambeau’s treatment did illustrate the British public’s struggles to reconcile the two Brysons in their minds. Did they support a golfing Hercules, capable of inflicting greater savagery with his 200mph ball speed that mere mortals could only imagine? Or did they mutter disapproval at an often petulant man-child, who once castigated a cameraman for failing to protect his brand?

Who are the leading contenders?

Jon Rahm: Won the US Open in style at Torrey Pines last month, is the world’s in form player and has a solid links record. Was in good position at Royal Portrush two years ago but faded with a final round 75 to finish T11 but does have two Irish Open wins on his CV at seaside courses. Ended the first round one over par but fought back brilliantly in round two to reach six under heading into the weekend.

Louis Oosthuizen: Finished second at the US Open and USPGA this season and is becoming a major specialist. Won his Open at St Andrews in 2010 but perhaps does not convert as many opportunities as he should. Enters the weekend with a two shot lead at 11 under, a record for the halfway stage in Open history.

Jordan Spieth: Produced a memorable run of birdies to win this at Royal Birkdale in 2017 and has been much improved in 2021, finishing third at the Masters but failing to contend at the USPGA and US Open. Has turned in two excellent rounds with some controlled play and currently sits third at eight under.

Brooks Koepka: After an injury ravaged year there have been signs of Koepka getting back to top form at the majors with consecutive top five finishes at Kiawah Island and Torrey Pines. T4 and T6 finishes at The Open in 2019 and 2017 with Northern Irishman Ricky Elliott on the bag. Clearly relishing in rival Bryson DeChambeau’s misfortune, he’s some way off the lead at 5 under but is not to be written off.

Brooks Koepka has been back to something like his best

Credit: PA

Dustin Johnson: Contended here in 2011 before spraying his second to the treacherous par five 14th out of bounds. Johnson’s class is undoubted but it has been a poor year with no top 10 since February. The world no.1 is right in the hunt at seven under heading into the weekend after a strong round of 65 on Friday.

Collin Morikawa: Competing in just his second ever links event and is making his debut at The Open. The American has produced two sparkling rounds of golf so far, including a fantastic 64 in round two, meaning he is the closest man to Oosthuizen heading into the weekend.

Andy Sullivan: The leading Brit who is seeking to bring The Open crown back to England for the first time since Sir Nick Faldo in 1992. The man from Nuneaton is six under after two very consistent rounds of 67 apiece on Thursday and Friday.

What are the tee times?

SATURDAY/Third round

9.20am – Yuxin LIN
9.30am – Taylor GOOCH, Bryson DECHAMBEAU
9.40am – Richard MANSELL, Bernd WIESBERGER
9.50am – Marcus ARMITAGE, JC RITCHE
10.00am – Ryosuke KINOSHITA, Poom SAKSANSIN
10.10am – Rickie FOWLER, Antoine ROZNER
10.20am – Brendan STEELE, Robert MACINTYRE
10.30am – Sam BURNS, Harris ENGLISH
10.40am – Abraham ANCER, Jason KOKRAK
10.50am – Christiaan BEZUIDHENOUT, Sam HORSFIELD
11.05am – Rory MCILROY, Richard BLAND
11.15am – Benjamin HERBERT, Xander SCHAUFFELE
11.25am – Padraig HARRINGTON, Matthew FITZPATRICK
11.35am – Kevin STREELMAN, Lanto GRIFFIN
11.45am – Viktor HOVLAND, Joaquin NIEMANN
11.55am – Max HOMA, Chan KIM
12.05pm – Justin THOMAS, Adam SCOTT
12.15pm – Billy HORSCHEL, Kevin KISNER
12.25pm – Jazz JANEWATTANANOND, Matthias SCHMID
12.35pm – Chez REAVIE, Aaron RAI
12.50pm – Jonathan THOMASON, Lee WESTWOOD
1.00pm – Ian POULTER, Jack SENIOR
1.10pm – Webb SIMPSON, Tommy FLEETWOOD
1.20pm – Johannes VEERMAN, Matt WALLACE
1.30pm – Sergio GARCIA, Byeong Hun AN
1.40pm – Joel DAHMEN, Justin ROSE
1.50pm – Dean BURMESTER, Daniel BERGER
2.00pm – Shane LOWRY, Brandy SNEDEKER
2.10pm – Danny WILLETT, Brian HARMAN
2.20pm – Corey CONNERS, Cameron SMITH
2.35pm – Tony FINAU, Ryan FOX
2.45pm – Jon RAHM, Cameron TRIANGLE
2.55pm – Brooks KOEPKA, Mackenzie HUGHES
3.05pm – Justin HARDING, Paul CASEY
3.15pm – Marcel SIEM, Andy SULLIVAN
3.25pm – Daniel VAN TONDER, Emiliano GRILLO
3.35pm – Dustin JOHNSON, Scottie SCHEFFLER
3.45pm – Jordan SPIETH, Dylan FRITTELLI
3.55pm – Louis OOSTHUIZEN, Collin MORIKAWA