Louis Oosthuizen did not realise he had broken an Open Championship record until he got off the course at Royal St George's on Friday.

The South African carded a 65 to move to 11 under, with his overall score of 129 the lowest after 36 holes at golf's oldest major.

It left the 2010 Champion Golfer of the Year two strokes clear of Collin Morikawa, with Jordan Spieth one stroke further back.

But Oosthuizen, who has finished second in two majors already this year, had no idea he had just made history when he sunk a par putt at the last.

 

"I only heard that when I walked in, so I wasn't aware of what it even was before," he conceded after fine conditions made the Kent links ripe for low scoring, with playing partners Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry shooting 64 and 65 respectively.

"To have any record at the Open or part of any record at the Open is always very special.

"I think I've played really good the last two days. It was as good a weather as you can get playing this golf course. All of us took advantage of that.

"I think in our three-ball we had a 64 and two 65s, which you don't really see around a links golf course."

The 38-year-old has had a succession of close calls since he claimed the Claret Jug at St Andrews 11 years ago, with a remarkable six runner-up spots in majors.

Asked if there was an issue with getting it over the line, he replied: "I don't know. I think in a few of them I needed to play just that little bit better coming down the stretch.

"It's just I don't think I would have done a lot different in a lot of them.

"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 opportunities for birdies."

It was moving day at The Open Championship on Friday but the sunshine refused to budge.

While Louis Oosthuizen recovered the overnight lead that he had lost to Collin Morikawa earlier in the day, a few fans' favourites ensured they will be around at the weekend.

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry both did enough to make the cut and world number one Dustin Johnson surged up the leaderboard.

But our man on the ground also had an eye on events on the fringes of the action...

BUTTER FINGERS!

When the players walk off the 18th green they pass under the grandstand that surrounds the putting surface.

Above them will often be a gaggle of fans trying to get their attention so they might throw a golf ball their way.

But when that chance comes you have to be ready to take it, and one young fan's hopes were dashed when Tommy Fleetwood tossed a ball within his grasp but he let it slip.

When a marshal picked it up to throw it back to the waiting fans, it was a different young hopeful who managed to seize the opportunity.

MERRY CHRISTMAS?

Lucas Herbert's caddie had fans in a festive mood, despite it being the middle of July.

Nick Pugh sports a bushy white beard and, as he made his way from the 15th green to the 16th tee, one cheeky fan asked if the jovial Scot had received his Christmas list.

Pugh saw the funny side and retorted: "Ho ho ho!"

BEERY ME...

They are not compulsory, but some spectators are choosing to wear face masks in these coronavirus times.

That is all well and good, but it's important to remove your mask before attempting to drink your beer.

One fan probably won't need to learn that lesson again after inducing much mirth following a botched attempt to take a swig from his pint with his face mouth covered.

Louis Oosthuizen holds a two-shot lead at the halfway stage of the 149th Open Championship after posting a record 36-hole score at golf's oldest major.

The South African, who claimed the Claret Jug in 2010, continued his stunning form at majors in 2021 with a 65 on Friday, with 129 the lowest total after two rounds at this event.

Tournament debutant Collin Morikawa, who had earlier carded a 64 at a sun-drenched Royal St George's, is Oosthuizen's closest rival on nine under, with 2017 winner Jordan Spieth one stroke further back.

Oosthuizen finished in a tie for second at the US PGA Championship in May and was outright runner-up at the U.S. Open the following month. 

He faces stiff competition from a chasing pack that also includes world number one Dustin Johnson following his 65 to move seven under, while Brooks Koepka is on five under.

 

Favourable weather on the Kent coast meant the course was set fair for low scoring and 2020 US PGA Championship winner Morikawa took full advantage.

His round included a run of five birdies in seven holes before a bogey at the 15th – the tricky par four playing at an average of 4.4 – halted his progress.

Oosthuizen did not go out until the afternoon but quickly made his intentions clear with a birdie at the first, though the highlight of his round was an eagle three at the 14th.

Reigning champion Shane Lowry also enjoyed a fine day as he shot 65, while pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm went one better to keep his slim hopes alive.

Rory McIlroy birdied the last to ease any lingering fears of missing the cut, while 2018 champion Francesco Molinari did not make the weekend after a 74 that included a quadruple-bogey seven at the sixth, where he took three shots to get out of a bunker.


SHOT OF THE DAY

There was joy for Englishman Jonathan Thomson as he hit the first ace at the 16th en route to a 67.

CHIPPING IN

Rory McIlroy: "I felt a little nervous going to that 18th tee. I knew I needed a par at least, but birdie to at least be comfortable."

Jonathan Thomson: "The hole-in-one was obviously awesome. It was a real confidence booster after what had been up until that point a real grind."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME...

- Jordan Spieth's halfway score of 132 is the American's second lowest at a major.

- Emiliano Grillo shot a 64, which was six strokes better than his opening round.

- Phil Mickelson improved on his opening effort by eight strokes, but still missed the cut at 12 over.

Collin Morikawa feels has the right mindset to cope with the pressure of majors after he took the lead at the Open on Friday with a fine 64.

The debutant surged up the leaderboard with a tremendous second round, moving to nine under for the tournament.

A stunning card from the 2020 US PGA Championship winner showed just one bogey and he could have even moved further clear had a putt on 18 not skirted the cup.

Morikawa made seven birdies as he took advantage of fine early conditions at Royal St George's.

As well as his US PGA win, Morikawa, 24, also has a 2021 top-10 finish to his name at that tournament, as well as coming fourth at the U.S. Open last month.

"Yeah, I look at them as obviously they're starred," he said of his success at majors so early in his career.

"We have four of them a year, and you're trying to definitely win these four because they're that big. 

"Talking about last year's PGA, I had seen every single guy before, I had played with every single guy, and that doesn't make anything different. 

"It's just the stage that we're on, more media, more spectators, more people around. 

"But that's everything outside that I could control. For me, it's just let's go figure out this golf course Monday through Wednesday like I have been the past couple years and figure it out on what I need to do to play well. 

"This style of golf is very different, but playing last week at the Scottish Open helped tremendously."

 

Morikawa posted a 67 in round one but believes his play was similar across the first two days.

"Just sticking to what I've been doing," he said of his Friday success.

"On Thursday I thought I played really well, just wasn't hitting as many fairways. Was able to hit a few more fairways early on in the round this time."

Morikawa ended his round three clear of overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen, who was joined at six under by fellow South African Daniel van Tonder as well as Emiliano Grillo, Marcel Siem and Jordan Spieth.

A flying start from former champion Spieth, who birdied his first two holes on Friday, meant he was promptly up to seven under and within two of his American compatriot, though he then dropped a shot at the third.

Birdies on 17 and 18 meant Grillo matched Morikawa with a 64, while Siem also gained two shots in the final two holes to sign for an impressive 67.

Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, all but ensured he will finish above the cut line with a crucial birdie on 18.

The Northern Irishman is level par for the week after a second straight 70. 

In an up-and-down round two, he recovered nicely from consecutive bogeys to start his day but then bogeyed 16 and 17 before improving his position once more at the last.

Tournament debutant Collin Morikawa surged into the lead at The Open with a second-round 64 to move to nine under on Friday.

The 2020 US PGA Championship winner's stunning card showed just one bogey as the American ended his round three clear of overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen.

Morikawa made seven birdies as he took advantage of fine conditions at Royal St George's, but he squandered the chance to get to 10 under with a putt on 18 that skirted the cup.

Daniel van Tonder moved level with South African compatriot Oosthuizen following a 66, while Tony Finau signed for the same score to get to four under.

 

Rory McIlroy, who matched Finau's 70 on Thursday, remained at even par through 11, while 2018 Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari is unlikely to make the weekend after a 74 left him two over.

Oosthuizen goes out at 14:59 local time alongside reigning champion Shane Lowry and pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm, both of whom will be looking to improve on rounds of 71.

The 149th Open Championship got under way at Royal St George's on Thursday, with Jon Rahm the hot favourite to prevail.

Englishman Richard Bland, who won his first European Tour title on his 478th start at the British Open in May, had the honour of teeing off proceedings at 06:35 local time at the Kent links, which is hosting for the 15th time.

Rahm claimed his maiden major with victory at this year's U.S. Open and will attempt to wrestle the Claret Jug from the grasp of playing partner Shane Lowry, with 2010 Champion Golfer of the Year Louis Oosthuizen completing a trio that tees off at 09:58.

Lowry, who is aiming to become the first player to successfully defend the prize at this course since Harry Vardon in 1899, proved a popular winner at Royal Portrush two years ago, with the 2020 event having been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Spaniard Rahm is eyeing a rare double, with only six players having won the U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same year.

The omens bode well for the in-form Jordan Spieth after he was drawn alongside Bryson DeChambeau and good-luck charm Branden Grace.

Grace has played with the eventual winner in his first two rounds at each of the previous two Opens.

The South African featured with Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie in 2018 and Lowry in Northern Ireland the following year. 

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy will head out in the afternoon with Patrick Reed and Cameron Smith, while world number one Dustin Johnson starts his bid for a first Open title at 10:20 with Will Zalatoris and Justin Rose for company.

Brooks Koepka is an 08:45 starter and the star attraction of a threesome that includes Jason Kokrak and Garrick Higgo.

Darren Clarke, who prevailed when last Royal St George's last hosted in 2011, goes out at 08:25 alongside Bernd Wiesberger and amateur Joe Long.

Brooks Koepka would relish a Sunday showdown with rival Bryson DeChambeau at The Open as the pair's feud continued at Royal St George's.

The American duo have been exchanging barbs for a long while now, with Koepka invited to offer an explanation when he faced the media ahead of the 149th Open in Kent on Tuesday.

Koepka revealed the issue started at the 2019 Northern Trust at Liberty National after he called out his compatriot for slow play.

A disgruntled DeChambeau took it up with Koepka's caddie, Ricky Elliott, before the pair apparently decided to call it quits, only for DeChambeau to stoke the fire with some unflattering comments about his countryman during a public online video game session.

Four-time major winner Koepka explained: "It was at Liberty. He didn't like that I had mentioned his name in slow play, so we had a conversation in the locker room, and then I guess we said something else in the press conference but didn't mention his name in it, and he walked up to Ricky and said: 'You tell your man if he's got something to say, say it to me.'

"I thought that was ironic because he went straight to Ricky. Ricky told me when I came out, I hit a few putts, and then just walked right over to him, we had a conversation.

"We both agreed we'd leave each other out of it and wouldn't mention each other, just kind of let it die off, wouldn't mention each other's names, just go about it.

"So then he decided I guess he was going on that little, whatever, playing video games online or whatever and brought my name up and said a few things, so now it's fair game."

Asked about the prospect of being paired with DeChambeau for the final round at golf's oldest major this weekend, Koepka said he would be up for the battle.

"Yeah, I would enjoy it. I would enjoy it. I'll be close to the final group come Sunday," he said.

"I always feel like I play well in the big events, the majors. I think it would be a lot more people tuning in, with everything that's gone on over the last two years, something like that, three years. So yeah, I think there would be a lot of people tuning in."

With the Ryder Cup to come at Whistling Straits in September, the two are set to be team-mates, but Koepka can handle a week of being on the same side.

"It's only a week. I mean, look, I can put it aside for business," he said.

"If we're going to be on the same team, I can deal with anybody in the world for a week. I'm not playing with him.

"I'm pretty sure we're not going to be paired together; put it that way. I think it's kind of obvious. It doesn't matter.

"We're not going to be high-fiving and having late-night conversations. I do my thing, he does his thing."

Speaking later the same day, DeChambeau was a little more succinct, saying of Koepka: "He can say whatever he wants. I think he said something back at Liberty National not upholding something. I don't know what he's talking about in that regard."

U.S. Open winner Jon Rahm will tee off alongside 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year Shane Lowry at the 2021 Open Championship on Thursday.

Spaniard Rahm won his maiden major at Torrey Pines, edging out Louis Oosthuizen by one stroke, and is among the favourites to prevail at Royal St George's this week. 

Lowry was a popular winner when golf's oldest major was held at Royal Portrush two years ago, with the 2020 event having been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Irishman, whose trio goes out at 09:58 local time and also includes 2010 victor Oosthuizen, will seek to become the first man to defend the Claret Jug at the Kent links since Harry Vardon in 1899.

Any superstitious players might have hoped to be drawn in Branden Grace's group, as he has played with the eventual winner in his first two rounds at each of the previous two Opens.

The South African featured with Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie in 2018 and Lowry in Northern Ireland the following year. 

 

Jordan Spieth, a winner in 2017, and 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau are the lucky pair, with that group teeing off at 09:25.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy will head out in the afternoon with Patrick Reed and Cameron Smith, while world number one Dustin Johnson starts his bid for a first Open title at 10:20 with Will Zalatoris and Justin Rose for company.

Brooks Koepka is an 08:45 starter and the star attraction of a threesome that includes Jason Kokrak and Garrick Higgo.

Darren Clarke, who prevailed when last Royal St George's last hosted in 2011, is an 08:25 starter alongside Bernd Wiesberger and amateur Joe Long.

The action will begin at 06:35, with English trio Richard Bland, Andy Sullivan and Marcus Armitage having the honour.

Harris English outlasted Kramer Hickok in a marathon play-off to claim the Travelers Championship on Sunday.

English birdied the eighth play-off hole in a marathon battle against fellow American Kramer at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

The eight-hole play-off is tied for second longest in PGA Tour history (2012 Mayakoba Golf Classic, 1983 Phoenix Open, 1981 Quad Cities Open, 1978 Greater Milwaukee Open and 1965 Azalea Open Invitational) – only three holes shy of the record – 11 at 1949 Motor City Open.

English's birdie putt at the eighth extra hole delivered a fourth career Tour title and second of the season after he claimed the Tournament of Champions via sudden death.

A play-off was needed at the Travelers Championship after English and Hickok finished 13 under through 72 regulation holes.

English catapulted himself to the top of the leaderboard with a five-under-par 65 as Hickok's final-round 67 saw him settled for a share of the lead.

March Leishman – the 2012 champion – used a bogey-free six-under-par 64 to earn outright third position, a shot behind English and Hickok, having initially been tied for first in the fourth round.

A stroke further back was Abraham Ancer (65) as four-time major winner Brooks Koepka (65) headlined a group of five players tied for fifth at 10 under.

Former world number one Jason Day was unable to maintain his title charge – an even-par 70 seeing the Australian star fall into a share of 10th spot at nine under.

Bryson DeChambeau also lost ground on the final day following a 70, which left the former U.S. Open champion seven under at the end of the tournament, alongside overnight leader Bubba Watson (73).

Defending champion Dustin Johnson's (71) bid for back-to-back trophies finished in a tie for 25th at six under and he was joined by Patrick Reed (69).

Three-time Travelers Championship winner Bubba Watson is tied for the lead heading into the final round at TPC River Highlands. 

Watson and fellow American Kramer Hickok carded two-under-par 68s on Saturday to lead the tournament at 10 under. 

Second-round leader Jason Day (70) lurks one stroke back along with Cameron Smith (66) and Russell Henley (68) after 54 holes. 

Two-time Masters champion Watson won his first PGA Tour title at the 2010 Travelers and triumphed again in 2015 and 2018 - the latter his most recent Tour victory. 

Watson said he plans to be aggressive on the back nine on Sunday if he is still in contention. 

"You don't want to play safe," he said. "In my stage of my career if I have a chance to win I'm going to go for it.

"That's the key. I'm not going to worry about third or fourth place. I am going to try to go for it if I can."

Hickok was in position for the outright lead, having turned in a flawless round before recording bogeys at 17 and 18. 

Nonetheless, the 29-year-old Texan has at least a share of the lead after 54 holes for the first time on tour as he looks for his first career win. 

Harris English (67), Brice Garnett (69) and K.H. Lee (69) are two shots behind the leaders at eight under, while Dustin Johnson (65) and Bryson DeChambeau (68) are well within striking distance at seven under. 

Brooks Koepka (69) and Patrick Reed (70) are among those at five under. 

Former world number one Jason Day leads the Travelers Championship heading into the weekend after surging to the top of the leaderboard following two rounds.

Day went low in the second round on Friday, carding a bogey-free and Travelers Championship career-best eight-under-par 62 to claim a one-stroke lead at TPC River Highlands.

Winner of the 2015 US PGA Championship and a 12-time PGA Tour champion, Day's career has been hampered by lingering back problems.

Day withdrew from the Memorial Tournament due to a back injury and did not qualify for the U.S. Open, having missed three consecutive cuts before tying for 44th at the PGA Championship.

But Day enjoyed a return to form as the Australian star earned his first lead/co-lead at a non-major tournament since 2017 thanks to a flawless round, which included eight birdies.

"Sometimes when you do have sort of an injury or stiffness, even if you're sick, sometimes you can come out and play some good golf," he said. "I was fortunate enough to not really get in my own way today."

Three-time Travelers Championship winner Bubba Watson (66) and co-overnight leader Kramer Hickok (69) are tied for second at eight under through 36 holes.

Hickok was 10 under before crumbling at the par-three 16th hole, where he three-putted from 18 feet for a double-bogey to end the day alongside Watson.

Russell Henley (66), Kevin Kisner (63), Seamus Power (67), Justin Rose (63), K.H. Lee (64), Brice Garnett (68) and Troy Merritt (65) are all seven under heading into Saturday's third round.

Big-hitting American star Bryson DeChambeau followed up his first-round 69 with a four-under-par 66 to be four strokes off the pace, alongside the likes of 2012 champion Marc Leishman (66) and Patrick Reed (66).

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka also recorded another round in the 60s – a second-round 67 – to be a shot further back.

PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson (69) and defending champion Dustin Johnson (68) finished just a shot above the cut line at two under to qualify for the weekend.

Kramer Hickok and Satoshi Kodaira share the one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Travelers Championship, where stars Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were forced to take a backseat.

Unheralded duo Hickok and Kodaira upstaged the star-studded field following their seven-under-par 63s at TPC River Highlands on Thursday.

Hickok – searching for his maiden PGA Tour title – offset a bogey at this first hole with eight birdies as the American golfer posted a career-low round in Cromwell, Connecticut.

"I really only hit one bad putt — on the par-five 13th. Other than that, I just felt like the holes looked awfully big today," the 29-year-old said. "I made a lot of good putts today, and the greens says are rolling so good that just the holes look big."

Japan's Kodaira matched his best score on the PGA Tour, from the second round of the 2018 RBC Heritage – his only victory.

Kodaira holed out from the fairway for an eagle on the 348-yard par-four second hole.

"I knew it was on target but didn't see it go in," he said. "I heard the applause, so I knew it went in."

Talor Gooch is a shot behind Hickok and Kodaira, while Maverick McNealy, Brice Garnett, Beau Hossler, Henrik Norlander and Patrick Rodgers are a stroke further back heading into the second round.

There is a 31-player logjam tied for 45th position at one under, headlined by DeChambeau, Koepka and Mickelson.

DeChambeau, who was dethroned by Jon Rahm at last week's U.S. Open, mixed three birdies with two bogeys to start his Travelers Championship campaign.

Four-time major champion Koepka also shared an identical round, while US PGA Championship winner Mickelson had four birdies and two bogeys.

"I'm awful the week after a major, especially U.S. Open, because it takes so much out of you," said Koepka, who was tied for fourth behind Rahm at Torrey Pines. "But still should have played better. No excuse. I mean, I'm kind of tired. I am going to enjoy getting to bed tonight."

The likes of Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler also shot 69s in round one.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson – who slipped to second in the golf rankings following Rahm's U.S. Open triumph – started his bid for back-to-back titles with an even-par 70.

Brooks Koepka says he has plenty of support on tour in his ongoing feud with Bryson DeChambeau and has no interest in sitting down to talk things out with his rival. 

Their spat has dominated golf's off-course buzz since a leaked video clip from an interview at the US PGA Championship showed Koepka rolling his eyes when DeChambeau walked by. 

Koepka showed no interest in ending the affair in an interview with ESPN on Tuesday ahead of this week's Travelers Championship in Connecticut. 

He said he has received approving text messages from NFL and NBA players, among others. 

"These guys love it," Koepka said. "I think it's drawn them into the golf a little bit more and is making it more fun for everybody. 

"Look, I've enjoyed it. I've definitely gotten the better of him, and I've enjoyed that." 

Closer to home, Koepka said his fellow PGA Tour players and officials also have provided positive feedback. 

"There's been a few laughs, a few 'I can't believe you did that -- I'm glad you did.' It's been fun," he said. 

"I've gotten good response from a bunch of the guys on tour, from everybody from the tour. It's been something I think everybody's enjoyed and definitely changing up the game a little bit."

Though the pair have appeared on unfriendly terms since at least 2019, when Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play, their most recent fallout has generated a different kind of attention for the tour. 

Koepka seems inclined to keep it going, as indicated by his response to being asked in the ESPN interview how he would respond if DeChambeau approached him with an offer to sit down and smooth things over. 

"There's not much to talk about," Koepka said. "This whole thing started, basically, because of him. I'll leave it at that. I don't see us having dinner or drinks ... just to settle it."

Bryson DeChambeau is fully embracing the atmosphere created by the so-called 'Brooksy bros' at the U.S. Open.

There is little love lost between defending champion DeChambeau and two-time winner Brooks Koepka, with their simmering rivalry one of the more intriguing sub-plots in golf during 2021.

At last month's US PGA Championship, a video of Koepka visibly frustrated at an interruption from DeChambeau went viral, which led to the pair trading back-and-forth jibes on social media.

Prior to the tournament, DeChambeau admitted the two just "don't like each other". On Sunday, as he contemplated going for the par-five 18th in two while in a sand trap, fans of Koepka yelled "go get 'em Brooksy" and "Brooks would go for it".

DeChambeau resisted the temptation to bite but when questioned about it after his round, the world number five insists he is relishing the rivalry.

"Hey, I love it. I think it's so much fun," said DeChambeau, who recorded his first ever bogey-free round in major golf to sit two back of leaders Mackenzie Hughes, Louis Oosthuizen and Russell Henley at three under at Torrey Pines.

"People think that it annoys me. If anything, it just creates a great atmosphere for golf. At first, I didn't really know how to handle it. You're kind of thrown into a situation. 

"But now I enjoy it. I think it's great. You've got to embrace it. There's going to be team Bryson, team Brooks out there, and hey, keep it up, I'm happy about it. 

"I'm excited that one day we can eventually get paired up and play together. It would be fun."

DeChambeau, who scored a three-under 68 in round three, is using driver at almost every opportunity in tactics similar to those he employed when winning at Winged Foot last year.

He says he has learned the nuances of coping with major golf.

"You've got to be really patient out here at these majors. It's something that is not easy to do," he added.

"My first few goes at majors, I was not successful or anywhere near successful, and I feel like I'm starting to understand major championship golf and how to play it and how to go about managing my game, my attitude and just my patience level. 

"If I can continue to do that [on Sunday], I think I'll have a good chance."

Jon Rahm is three off the lead after signing for a one-over 72 on Saturday. The Spaniard thinks being part of the chasing pack may actually play to his strengths.

"I feel like it's easy when you're in the lead to get a little tentative and start trying to be a little bit more safe in certain parts," he said. 

"I feel like when you're a couple shots back, you have nothing to lose early on. So, I feel like you can be a little bit more aggressive and try to get some birdies.

"There will be somebody who gets a fast start, and hopefully that's me tomorrow, and I get a fast start, and I get it going fast."

Since winning The Open in 2010, Oosthuizen has been a perennial nearly man in the majors, recording five runners-up finishes including play-off defeats at the 2012 Masters and 2015 Open, while he was tied second to Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship last month.

The South African is aiming to take the positives from those experiences, though, saying: "The two that really hurt was the playoffs. That's so close to winning.

"You know, the other ones, just good weeks and good results. Could have been better but taking more positive out of it than anything else."

Oosthuizen drained an eagle at the par-five 18th, which drew a huge reaction from the galleries.

"A year ago, that would have been a very boring eagle with a few people going nuts. But that was nice to see everyone back," he said, alluding to the return of fans who were unable to attend in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bryson DeChambeau said his swing fix "came to him" in a dream after the U.S. Open champion kept his title defence alive.

DeChambeau opened his bid for back-to-back U.S. Open trophies with a 73 but the big-hitting American responded by posting a two-under-par 69 on Friday.

An eagle, four birdies and four bogeys saw DeChambeau surge 47 positions on day two, moving within five shots of co-leaders Richard Bland and Russell Henley at Torrey Pines.

Reflecting on his bounce-back display heading into the weekend, DeChambeau credited a late-night tweak.

"I was sleeping and it came to me in the middle of the night," DeChambeau told reporters.

"Woke up and I was like, hmm, I'm going to try this, and my intuition is pretty good, so I went out and tried it and it worked, just keeping the right wrist bent for a lot longer through impact."

"It's more just my intuition telling me there's something weird here, what's going on, and I couldn't figure it out for an hour and a half last night, an hour last night," said DeChambeau said. "Going back and just sitting down, eating dinner and just thinking about it, thinking about it, I literally won't talk to anybody for like an hour, just thinking, thinking, thinking, and sure enough, I went to bed and I found a little something that worked for my driver."

DeChambeau added: "I feel like if I can clean up my iron play and get a little more comfortable with the irons and the drivers, I'll have a good chance for this weekend."

He is tied for 13th alongside the likes of rival Brooks Koepka (73), Justin Thomas (69) and Collin Morikawa (67).

Amid their ongoing feud, DeChambeau and two-time U.S. Open champion Koepka narrowly avoided being paired together for Saturday's penultimate round.

Koepka – eyeing a fifth major crown – lost ground on the leaders after mixing five bogeys and just three birdies but he told reporters: "I feel right there. I feel like I'm in it. Just need to put two solid good rounds and put the ball in the fairway, and that's it. I love the way I'm putting. I love the way I'm striking it. Just need to keep doing it."

Four-time major winner and former world number one Rory McIlroy is a stroke further back following his second-round 73.

"A bit of a rollercoaster, got off to a good start," McIlroy said. "Made a couple of birdies early on and was under par for the round. Then I made a couple of mental errors and missed it in the wrong spots, and when you do that around this golf course, it's just really hard to see a par.

"I made a few bogeys, but birdieing two of the last four holes definitely makes me feel better about the round and gives me a nice bit of momentum going into tomorrow…So, yeah, in for the weekend and still feel like I've got a really good chance."

US PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson also feels he can "make a run at it" after avoiding the cut on Friday.

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