Louis Oosthuizen has one of the most universally envied swings in the game and Jordan Spieth’s chipping and putting is coveted by at least an equal number of people, likely more. Morph one into the other and there’s no telling how many major championships Spiethuizen would win.
So far, Oosthuizen has channeled his inner Spieth on and around the greens and vice versa for Spieth. But with 36 holes to play at Royal St. George’s, each has his own issues that need to be resolved if either is to win another British Open.
Oosthuizen, who won in 2010 at St. Andrews, leads this Open by two shots at the halfway point with rounds of 64-65, good for an 11-under total of 129 and a new Open 36-hole scoring record. Spieth, the 2017 Open champion at Royal Birkdale, is third at 8 under, with a 67 on Friday to go with a first-round 65.
Standing between them on the leaderboard is Collin Morikawa, who shot 6-under 64 on Friday to post 9-under 131, two behind Oosthuizen and one ahead of Spieth. This is the first British Open for the 24-year-old Morikawa.
Oosthuizen, 38, is a lock for the runner-up hall of fame, having collected six second-place finishes in major championships, including runners-up in all four majors. He added to his total this year, finishing T2 with Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and second behind Jon Rahm at the U.S. Open.
The South African’s final-round issues lie mainly with his putter, which has deserted him in crucial situations. He simply hasn’t putted well enough in final rounds to win another major. And it’s clear that his swing and his ball-striking aren’t the same in contention as they are leading up to it.
“I think in a few of them I needed to play just that little bit better coming down the stretch,” said Oosthuizen, who hit 13 fairways and 15 greens on Friday. "(At the) U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, that wasn't the easiest golf course to go the last five, six holes trying to get a birdie. You were sort of just playing making pars, and obviously Jon finished with those two unbelievable putts he made, and all of a sudden now I'm chasing.
“So, that was difficult to find birdies to try and win the championship. Having said, I played well enough where I could have probably been a little bit more aggressive on a few occasions. Right now. I think where my game is at, I just need to put myself in position, and this year is the best I've been putting, and I just need to hit greens and give myself any opportunities for birdies.”
Spieth, who has returned after about three years in the wilderness, has threatened to be in contention in this year’s majors. He tied for third at the Masters but never got closer than three shots to eventual champion Hideki Matsuyama on Sunday. Spieth hasn’t won a major since his Open victory in 2017.
The biggest question for Spieth is: Will the swing that found fairways and greens in the first two rounds of this Open hold up for the final 36 holes?
“I felt like (the course) started to get a little shiny for sure,” Spieth said. “With the forecasted conditions being sunshine and less wind, I imagine they'll let them firm up because that will be the defense of the golf course. I know that was the case the last time the Open was held here, and it puts more of a premium on hitting out of the fairway for sure.
“I might look into what clubs I'm hitting off tees. I've been able to hit driver a lot around this course, and I'm not sure if that'll stay the same or if I'll look to make sure we're positioning ourselves in the fairway more.”
Morikawa won the PGA Championship last August at Harding Park in San Francisco in his first attempt at that major. He traveled to the U.K. last week to play in the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club to acclimate himself to links golf.
“I wouldn't be here through these two rounds if I hadn't played last week,” said Morikawa, who changed his 7-9 irons to better suit the turf. “I've played in firm conditions. I can think of places I've played in tighter, drier conditions, but just having fescue fairways and the ball sitting a little different was huge to see last week.”
Perfect weather in Sandwich, England, with dry conditions and little wind of consequence, has left Royal St. George’s vulnerable. Wind is a links course’s resistance to scoring and the weekend forecast indicates that nothing of the kind is on the horizon. However, if a number of low scores remain available, there’s plenty of time and space for those down the board to catch the leaders.
Dustin Johnson, who was in contention in the final round of the 2011 Open at Royal St. George’s, birdied the 18th hole to get to 65 and 7 under, four shots behind the leader. He was joined there by Dylan Frittelli and Scottie Scheffler. Five players are a shot further back, highlighted by Emiliano Grillo, who shot a 64 of his own on Friday.
Officially lurking are two top players with majors on their resumes. Jon Rahm, the U.S. Open champion a month ago, is six back of Oosthuizen at 5 under after a 64 and is tied with Brooks Koepka, who made birdies on his final three holes to get to 66. The four-time major winner was particularly irritated with a double bogey on the par-4 4th hole.
“I'm okay with making bad swings,” Koepka said. “But if you're going to make a mental mistake, that's inexcusable. So, (I’ve) got to play a clean card pretty much this weekend if I want a chance.”
Rahm has his eyes on two majors in a row after winning his first at Torrey Pines. “You know, I can play this level of golf on the weekend, as well,” he said. “I can play really good. I think I give myself a chance to catch up by Sunday. But we will see tomorrow.
“(Saturday) is the most important day, obviously, right now. If I can put another solid round like I did today, post a good number, and hope that the leaders don't go too low, I think that's the job.”
More Day 2 British Open Coverage from Morning Read:
- Oosthuizen Leads, Spieth Lurks Through Two Rounds at British Open
- One Day After Ripping His Equipment, Bryson DeChambeau Says He 'Feels Really Bad About It'
- Could a Brit Finally Win a British Open? Several Contenders Have a Shot
- Morikawa Takes Run at Open Scoring Record, Shoots 64 to Surge Into Contention
- From Challenge Tour to British Open, Marcel Siem Plays Way into Contention
- Amateur Matthias Schmid Etches Name in Open Lore With Second-Round 65
- Will Zalatoris WD From Open, One Day After Painful Shot Out of Deep Rough
- Bryson DeChambeau Rips Gear, Says Driver 'Sucks' After Uneven Opening Round