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British Open: Early leader Harman feels pressure from charging Rahm

Brian Harmancoasts his way to winning the British Open Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Raj Mehta / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

HoylakeUnited Kingdom | AFP | Saturday 7/23/2023 – 01:17

Masters champion Jon Rahm hit eight birdies in a course-record 63 to haul himself into contention for the British Open on Saturday as overnight leader Brian Harman steadied himself after a shaky start.

With persistent rain softening up the Royal Liverpool course for a day of low scoring, Rahm took full advantage, picking up six shots on the back nine to surge into a share of second place.

The world number three was joined on six under par by Australia’s Jason Day and American Cameron Young, who was runner-up at last year’s British Open at St Andrews.

Rahm, 28, narrowly avoided missing the cut on Friday following rounds of 74 and 70.

But he bounced back in spectacular fashion — missing out on matching the lowest score in major championship history by a single shot.

“That’s the best round I have played on a links course ever,” he said.

Rahm was frustrated by the brutality of Royal Liverpool’s 82 bunkers during his first round and missed four short putts in his second as he sneaked into the weekend at two over par.

“It feels really good, but it’s a lot of work to do tomorrow,” added the Spaniard, who is seeking his third major.

– Pressure –

Harman, ranked 26th in the world, pulled clear of the field with a stunning six-under-par second round of 65 on Saturday to move to 10 under.

He stumbled early on Saturday, bogeying two of his first four holes, but steadied himself, sinking two birdies, at the fifth and ninth, to restore a four-shot lead.

Harman was having to cope with raucous support behind playing partner Tommy Fleetwood, who hails from Southport, just 30 miles (48 kilometres) from Hoylake, and is aiming to become the first Englishman to lift the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo in 1992.

Fleetwood birdied the second but a bogey at the 10th dropped him back into a five-strong group at five under.

That includes Viktor Hovland, after the world number five shot a 66 to remain in contention for his first major title.

World number two Rory McIlroy had the mass galleries following the Northern Irishman believing he could end a nine-year major drought when he picked up three shots in the opening five holes to move to four under.

But the world number two failed to build on that momentum as he dropped back to three under with two holes to play.

World number one Scottie Scheffler will not be adding to his sole major at the 2022 Masters.

The American avoided missing the cut thanks to a birdie at the last on Friday, but a one-over-par round on Saturday pushed him to four over for the tournament.

PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka is also at four over after a 72.

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