CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - The heavens opened at Carnoustie and it rained birdies for Tommy Fleetwood as he flew up the British Open leaderboard with a blemish-free round of six-under 65 on Friday.
The 27-year-old Englishman, whose 63 at last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links championship broke the Carnoustie course record, rattled in a 10-foot birdie at the 18th, his sixth of the day, to reach five-under at the tournament’s halfway stage.
He will start the weekend one stroke behind American leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner.
Fleetwood’s round was remarkable considering no other player in the day’s first seven groups managed a sub-70 score as heavy rain took the pace out of the bone-hard fairways.
“It’s no course record, but it will do for today,” Fleetwood, who scored a sizzling final-round 63 at Shinnecock Hills last month to finish second in the U.S. Open, said.
“Today’s been a round where I’ve put myself back in the tournament, and I’ve just got to move on from there really.
“If I can hit it like I did today, then obviously I’m going to have a lot of chances coming in over the weekend, and we’ll see where that takes me.”
No Englishman has triumphed at the Open since Nick Faldo won at Muirfield in 1992 and Fleetwood knows he is now perfectly-placed to end that drought.
“If I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it’d be the Open,” Fleetwood, who struggled to a 72 on Thursday, said.
“I’ve never been anywhere near it before. It would be something to have in my career that would be amazing by the time I’m done.”
Fleetwood’s charge began with birdies at the fourth and fifth and he grabbed another at the ninth when a 30-foot putt dropped. He then birdied the 11th and tapped in a three-footer to gain another stroke on the 14th.
Not even the formidable closing four holes could throw Fleetwood off and he hit a peach of a drive down the 18th fairway to set him up for a closing birdie and the lowest round at this year’s Open.
Fleetwood, however, said he never felt fully comfortable on the course.
“Normally when you play great, you know where the ball’s gone. A lot of the shots, I was just looking up, and I was really happy that they were going straight,” he said.
“I never felt at ease all day. But the ball was doing what I wanted it to do.”
Perfectionist Fleetwood said he would be on the range later making tweaks for what could be a seismic weekend.
“It still didn’t feel right where I’d like it to be. So I’ll try and do a little bit more work on that later, but it was a lot closer,” he said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Ed Osmond