Lytham St Annes, England – American Brandt Snedeker, who missed the cut in his three previous British Open appearances, peppered the flags with his approach shots to grab an early two-stroke lead in the second round on Friday.
The 31-year-old from Nashville was quick out of the blocks on another calm day at Royal Lytham & St Annes, ramming in a 25-foot putt for a birdie at the par-three first.
While most of his rivals toiled as the wind changed direction and organisers placed the flags in awkward spots on faster greens, Snedeker accelerated past overnight leader Adam Scott of Australia.
The blond American struck laser-guided approach shots at the sixth, seventh and ninth holes to set up three more birdie opportunities he gratefully devoured as he raced to the turn in 30 – four under par.
Snedeker, who has never won a major and missed the cut at the 2008, 2009 and 2011 Opens, was two shots ahead of Scott and three clear of Britain's Paul Lawrie and American Zach Johnson who all start their rounds later along with Tiger Woods who carded an opening 67.
World No 1 Luke Donald looked as if he was about to mount a charge when he reeled off three successive birdies.
Donald, aiming to become the first Englishman to win the championship on home soil since Tony Jacklin in 1969, prompted trademark cries of 'Luuuke, Luuuke, Luuuke' when he rolled in a birdie putt from 15 feet at the fourth.
Two more long-range birdie attempts also dived into the cup at the fifth and sixth. He then picked up another shot at the eighth but a bogey five at the 10th stymied his progress as he slipped back to two under for the championship.
Donald was forced to bring in Gareth Lord as a temporary bagman for the round after giving regular caddie John McLaren a day off to attend the birth of his first child.
World No 2 Rory McIlroy was struggling to make an impact on one over through 14 holes while four-times major winner Phil Mickelson looked destined to miss the cut after ballooning to five-over through 12.
Britain's Richard Finch came unstuck in spectacular fashion at the par-four eighth, carding a 10 on his way to a 79.
“I got into a bit of a pickle going up the eighth hole,” said the Englishman. “It was a long 10 holes from there on in.”
Earlier, a deluge of overnight rain took the Royal & Ancient by surprise and left some areas of the course with standing water.
“We've had far more rain overnight than we were expecting unfortunately,” chief executive Peter Dawson told BBC radio.
“There was 11 millimetres or so but the course can take it as the drainage here is good.” – Reuters