The Open: The lucky few and the race to catch Mickelson

We look back at the second round of The Open and pick out five of the biggest talking points.

Luck of the draw

How the morning starters like Stenson and Mickelson benefited. Mickelson may not have mirrored his near record-breaking performance on Thursday, but a 69 on Friday was still enough to keep him in the lead. 

Stenson, meanwhile, took full advantage of the morning conditions and rocketed up 10 spots to second place on the leaderboard after firing a 65. He now sits one shot behind Mickelson heading into the weekend. 

Those who started in the afternoon had to brave their way through bad weather and this impacted their rounds. Rory McIlroy managed a level-par 71, which put him in a tie for 15th, while Day recorded a 70. Spieth particularly struggled on Friday as he registered a four-over-par 75. 

Surviving the cut

The cut line dropped as the day progressed and guys like Danny Willett, Bubba Watson, Spieth and Colin Montgomerie all just made the cut, when it looked like they wouldn't. 

It was tough going for all of them in the second round as reigning Masters champion Willett, Spieth and Montgomerie all carded 75s. Watson fared even worse as he fired a 76. Nonetheless, the quartet will consider themselves lucky to be playing on the weekend. 

Stenson's surge

Just talking about how good Stenson's round isn’t enough. The Swede was in fine form on Friday as he made seven birdies and a bogey. While he did play in more favourable conditions, it does not take away from the fact that he blew the competition away and sliced Mickelson’s three-stroke lead at the beginning of the day to just one by the time play concluded. 

It is also worth noting that Stenson is on the hunt for his maiden major title and prior to The Open, he withdrew after the first round of the U.S. Open and failed to make the cut in the two tournaments he played before that at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players Championship. 

With Stenson just one stroke adrift of Mickelson, the 40-year-old will be fancying his chances of landing his first major title. 

Mickelson didn't fade away

How at 46 years of age, Mickelson did not fade away on Friday and kept his lead is nothing short of extraordinary. 

Mickelson last won a major back at The Open in 2013 and after firing a near record-breaking 63 in the first round, which was followed by a 69 on Friday, Mickelson is still one stroke ahead and in a promising position heading into the weekend. 

The only question that remains is whether Mickelson can hold on to his lead as the pressure builds on Saturday and Sunday. The answer to that will be revealed in due time. 

Zach Johnson might actually win this thing… again

Defending champion Zac Johnson is right in contention and could relive the fairytale of winning The Open all over again. 

While retaining the title is a feat that has been accomplished numerous times since The Open’s inception in 1860, it is a lot easier said than done. 

Johnson currently sits in fifth place and is five strokes behind Mickelson, but should he continue to stay solid and keep himself in contention after the third round on Saturday, then a victory on Sunday may be on the cards.