CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner are more than just housemates this week. They share the lead in the British Open.
Johnson, whose name already is on the claret jug from his playoff victory at St. Andrews three years ago, holed a 30-foot birdie putt Friday on the 18th hole at Carnoustie for a 4-under 67 just as the rain was starting to end.
Kisner would have loved a finish like that. Instead, his 8-iron floated out of the rough, bounced in front of Barry Burn and caromed off the rock wall that lines the stream. He made double bogey for a 70 that cost him a two-shot lead, but not his outlook.
“I love where my putter is and love my position going into the weekend,” Kisner said.
They played on different ends of a day that began with umbrellas and finished with shadows. Scotland’s unusually dry summer finally got a reprieve. There wasn’t enough rain to turn brown fairways green, though it at least kept shots from rolling endlessly.
It sets up a weekend with endless possibilities.
Photo: Alastair Grant, AP
Johnson and Kisner were at 6-under 136, one shot ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (65), Pat Perez (68) and Xander Schauffele (66). Perez was tied for the lead until he hit into a bunker on the 18th hole and took bogey. Rory McIlroy, pledging to “go down swinging” to rid himself of a bad Masters memory this year, had another 69 and was part of a large group two shots behind.
Jordan Spieth is back in the hunt, too, in his bid to take the claret jug back home to Texas. Spieth hit 8-iron through a gap in the trees for a birdie-birdie start to the back nine, and he dropped only one shot — not four like he did on Thursday — over the four closing holes at Carnoustie for a 67. He goes into the weekend just three shots back.
“Very happy to be back in the tournament,” Spieth said.
Tiger Woods still has work to do after a rugged start, good recovery and then a mix of birdies and bogeys that left him stuck in neutral on a better day for scoring. Woods had another 71 and was six shots behind, with 28 players between him and the lead.
“I’m certainly right there in it,” he said.
Carnoustie was a far different test from the opening round, when sunshine baked the fairways crisp and it was difficult to figure out how far the ball was going when it hit the ground. The steady, light rain made them a little slower and a lot more predictable. The greens held shots a little better. Strategies changed. Slightly softer conditions meant power players who were going beyond the trouble hit more irons, and shorter players hit more drivers and fairway metals.
Kisner hit 5-iron off the first tee on Thursday. He hit 3-wood on Friday.
“Hit the same club as the approach,” Kisner said. “That’s a pretty dramatic difference in distance.”
Kisner is a newcomer to what amounts to an American fraternity house at golf’s oldest championship the last three years. Four of them are among the top 11 on the leaderboard going into the weekend with Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who shot 69 and was at 3-under 139.
One of the house rules: Winner pays for the flight home, though not everyone will be on the same plane this year with players headed in too many different directions. As for talking shop? Nothing is off limits.
“Everybody will tell their horror stories and good stories, and we’ll laugh and eat a big old meal and sit around and watching something stupid,” Kisner said.
Thomas will have one of the horror stories.
The PGA champion took three to get out of a pot bunker from the fairway on the par-5 sixth hole, making the first of three straight double bogeys. He had a chance to salvage his round late until a bogey on the 17th hole. He shot 77 and missed the cut by one shot.
Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world, finished bogey-double bogey for a 72 and missed the cut by one. It was the second straight year that No. 1 and No. 2 in the world missed the cut in a major, and Johnson became the first No. 1 player to miss the cut at the British Open since Luke Donald in 2011.
The way golf has been going, it would be reasonable to see the name “Johnson” atop the leaderboard and assume it belonged to the top-ranked player.
But not necessarily at the British Open.
“I’ve been called Dustin many times,” Zach Johnson said. “I doubt he’s been called Zach that many times.”
Johnson overcame a bogey on the opening hole with birdies on the third and fourth holes, and he never put himself under too much pressure the rest of the way.
Already a two-time major champion with titles at St. Andrews and Augusta National, the 42-year-old from Iowa now has made the cut 12 straight times in the British Open, a streak that began at Carnoustie in 2007. His low ball flight, grinding nature and good putting give him the right ingredients.
Fleetwood and McIlroy were playing a few groups ahead of Johnson, and it was a race to see who would wind up on top for much of the late morning until Johnson made his birdie putt on the final hole and McIlroy dropped a shot on the 15th by pulling his approach toward the gallery.
McIlroy played in the final pairing at Augusta National with Patrick Reed and never challenged him. He said he was thinking more about the outcome than the shots, and vowed to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“Even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving it my best,” he said.