Rory McIlroy's storming revival continued on the second morning of The Open as the 2014 champion defied rising winds to significantly close the gap on the leaders at Royal Birkdale.
McIlroy bogeyed five of the first six holes in his opening round, but recovered impressively to complete a one-over 71 and sit six shots behind overnight leaders Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar.
That deficit was dramatically halved on Friday when McIlroy picked up shots at the first and third holes before a stunning approach to the sixth set up only the second birdie of the day at a hole that was proving fiendishly difficult for most of the field.
Rickie Fowler was the only other man in the first 18 groups to make three at the sixth, amid a host of sixes and a seven for Callum Shinkwin.
Approach to 3ft and a tap-in 3. Is that any good?! Rory is on fire. #TheOpen-- Chris Devine (@chrsdvn) July 21, 2017
With Spieth and Koepka due out late in the afternoon - when the gusts were predicted to hit 35-40mph and outbreaks of heavy rain were anticipated - Kuchar initially edged clear at the summit by reaching six under.
Kuchar was back to his overnight score through 10 holes, surely feeling a level-par second round would do nicely given the tricky conditions.
Charl Schwartzel - playing alongside McIlroy and Dustin Johnson - briefly claimed a share of the lead with a birdie at the fourth, only to then double bogey the fifth and drop another shot at the sixth. That left the South African alongside McIlroy, three off the pace.
Bubba Watson and Kent Bulle had each improved to three under in the early stages of their second rounds, while Charley Hoffman was also two back through 10.