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Unheralded Harman soars to five-shot lead at British Open

American Brian Harman stormed into a five-shot lead at the British Open on Friday after a faultless 65 left him on 10 under par as bigger names struggled to keep pace.

Home favourite Tommy Fleetwood leads the chase as he battled to an even-par round on Friday to remain in the hunt for his first major.

Rory McIlroy is best-placed among the pre-tournament favourites at one under as world number one Scottie Scheffler and defending champion Cameron Smith needed miraculous shots at the 18th to make the cut.

Harman surged to the top of the leaderboard at the Royal Liverpool course thanks to long birdie putts at the second, third and fourth before his chip into the par-five fifth hit the flag to tee up a simple putt for a four.

A run of 12 consecutive pars followed before a spectacular eagle at the last.

The world number 26 has never won a major but was sixth at last year’s British Open at St Andrews and was joint runner-up at the US Open in 2017.

“I’ve had a hot putter the last couple of days so try to ride it through the weekend,” said Harman.

“I felt kind of freed up on 18. I made probably my two best swings of the day and got up there to 12 to 15 feet for eagle. Just played a really nice hole.”

Barring a collapse over the weekend, the 36-year-old will take some catching, with the sport’s biggest stars failing to fire.

McIlroy believes

McIlroy believes he is still in with a chance of ending his nine-year wait to win a major at the scene of his only British Open victory, in 2014.

The Northern Irishman, benefiting from more forgiving bunkers, birdied the fifth to move to two under on the day after tournament organisers reacted to criticism from players that the sand traps were too tough during Thursday’s opening round at Hoylake.

Greenkeeping staff were instructed to build up the edges to allow more balls to roll back into the centre of the bunkers.

However, the world number two dropped two shots on the back nine before a birdie at the last.

“I might be nine back, but I don’t think there’s going to be a ton of players between me and the lead going into the weekend,” said McIlroy, who is currently tied for 11th.

“If I can get to three, four, five-under par tomorrow going into Sunday, I’ll have a really good chance.”

Scheffler has been a model of consistency on the PGA Tour all year, but he came perilously close to missing the cut for the first time in 21 tournaments, ending with a four-over-par round to be three over for the tournament.

Needing a birdie at the par-five last, the 2022 Masters champion got up and down from a difficult lie in the greenside bunker to make a four.

Smith went one better as a remarkable second shot at the 18th set up an eagle to move to two over.

Masters champion Jon Rahm is also at two over after carding a round of 70.

Climate protest

Austrian Sepp Straka produced a remarkable run of six birdies in the closing seven holes to go third at four under.

Australia’s Jason Day is the highest-placed major winner on the leaderboard at three under, alongside compatriot Min Woo Lee and India’s Shubhankar Sharma.

But the threat from the group of players now regularly plying their trade in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series is fading after PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka double-bogeyed the 18th to slip to three over.

Earlier Friday, climate protestors from the Just Stop Oil group targeted the tournament, setting off a smoke flare and throwing orange powder onto the course.

American golfer Billy Horschel intervened to help remove one demonstrator at the 17th hole.

Police confirmed four people had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage and public nuisance.

British golf’s landmark tournament is the latest high-profile sporting event to be targeted in recent weeks following interruptions at Wimbledon and during the second Ashes cricket Test at Lord’s.