Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Jordan Spieth bared their teeth in round two of The Open as Zach Johnson snared a share of the lead with Kevin Kisner.
The calm, baked conditions that have swarmed Carnoustie this week were initially replaced by heavy downpours more associated with the Championship before reverting to the week's type later in the day.
Fleetwood set the tone for the early starters battling the elements to score a six-under 65, the lowest of the week, and move to five under for the tournament, just one back of the leaders and level with Pat Perez and Xander Schauffele.
McIlroy is just one stroke further back having at one stage also reached five under, as Matt Kuchar – who sank a lengthy putt at the last - joined the Northern Irishman, Erik van Rooyen, Tony Finau and Zander Lombard at four under.
Johnson put the pressure on Kisner with four-under 67. His American compatriot initially responded and was eight under before an untimely dip in the Barry Burn at the last saw him fall back to six.
As the conditions continued to dry, defending champion Spieth – who started the day one over after dropping four shots in four holes down the stretch on Thursday – shot a 67 that left him three back in a group with Kevin Chappell and Rickie Fowler.
While there are plenty of big names in the hunt to be named Champion Golfer for 2018, three of the world's top five are heading home after Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm missed the cut, while only a birdie at the last saw Justin Rose – ranked third – make the weekend.
The round of the day belonged to Fleetwood, whose putter was striking hot and a birdie at four set him on the way before a 15-footer with the flat stick for another gain at the fifth preceded a couple of momentum-building par saves.
He picked up shots at 11 and 14 followed before the grandstand rose to their feet at 18 when Fleetwood rolled in sixth birdie.
McIlroy's accurate approach work yielded birdies at the seventh and 10th and, despite dropping a shot at 12, he was five under with gains at the 13th and 14th.
A bogey at 15 undid some of that work, but he scrambled down the stretch to leave himself well in contention.
Zach Johnson, the 2015 champion, again showed his affinity for links golf. Two birdies on the front nine did not do justice to the quality of his play, but he drained a putt at 14 for a third gain before rounding out with a fine 18-footer for birdie at the last. Kisner initially continued his fine work from round one and five birdies coupled with two bogeys meant he was eight under coming down the last.
But a wayward tee shot was followed by an undercooked eight iron out of the rough that found the treacherous Barry Burn en route to double bogey.
A bit of magic from Spieth with a chip-in birdie at the third was the precursor for a trademark surge up the leaderboard.
Three birdies in the space of five holes between the 10th and 14th really had the American rolling, before a solitary bogey at 16 left him three off the leaders.
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