Justin Harding put himself in contention for a maiden Major victory after a magnificent second round at The Open at Royal Portrush on Friday, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Harding shot a 6-under 65 to leave him two shots behind clubhouse leaders JB Holmes and Tommy Fleetwood.
Harding, who had a top-15 finish at the Masters earlier this year, shot an even par 71 on Thursday, but came out firing in the benign conditions which greeted the early starters in the morning.
Harding started with a birdie on the second, before giving a shot back on the fourth hole. However, an eagle on the par-5 7th was the catalyst for a superb run on the back nine. Harding made five birdies going in and only one bogey to come home in 31 strokes.
Fellow South African Erik van Rooyen also made hay while sun was shining at Royal Portrush to move up the leaderboard.
The South African, who briefly led the 2018 Open at Carnoustie, followed up his 70 in the first round with a bogey-free 3-under 68 on Friday to go into the weekend at 4-under par.
Van Rooyen made a par-par start, before making birdies on the third, fifth, seventh holes. The second nine, though, was a bit of grind as the wind started to come up after gorgeous early morning conditions.
He managed to get home unharmed, although he missed a couple of birdies putts, which would have put him in a much stronger position, especially after American superstar Jordan Speith made a move in the second round.
Van Rooyen ended his round three shots behind leaders JB Holmes, who at the time made the turn at 7-under par, and Tommy Fleetwood, who finished with a 67 following a great birdie at the 18th.
Two-times Open winner Ernie Els is also in the mix at 2-under after shooting a 69 on Friday. Louis Oosthuizen, however, missed a few short par putts to stall his move up the leaderboard.
Oosthuizen, who shot a 1-under 70 in the first round, started off with four consecutive pars, before making back-to-back birdies on No 5 and No 6. However, he bogeyed the par-4 eighth hole before making the turn at 1-under for the tournament.
Oosthuizen made a steady start to the back nine with four more pars, before dropping shots at No 14 and No 16 to move to 1-over for the tournament. However, the sweet-swinging South African made a birdie on the last to move back to even for the last Major of the year.