merican Brian Harman seized control of the Open with a sublime second round then watched the chasing pack huff and puff to little effect in breezy conditions at Royal Liverpool on Friday.
Early starter Harman landed a barrage of birdies on his front nine and then eagled the 18th to post a six-under 65 that left him five shots clear on 10 under.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood, one of three overnight leaders after first round 66s, had raucous support but struggled to make inroads, signing for a 71 to sit on five under.
Austria’s Sepp Straka emerged as a weekend contender for the Claret Jug with six birdies in a sizzling back nine for a second-round 67 to move four under.
Australian Min Woo Lee (68), compatriot Jason Day (67) and India’s Shubhankar Sharma (71) were in a group on three under.
Several other players threatened an afternoon charge but the links course alongside the Dee Estuary was in miserly mood.
American Jordan Spieth, the 2017 champion, birdied three of his first six holes but struggled on the back nine and ended up going nowhere with a level-par 71 to stay on two under.
It proved a day of hard graft for the majority with only 24 of the 156 field under par for 36 holes. But Harman, armed with a red-hot putter, made a mockery of the tough conditions.
“I’ve had a hot putter the last couple of days so try to ride it through the weekend,” Harman, tied sixth at St Andrews last year but has not won on the PGA Tour since 2017, said.
The 36-year-old left-hander got on a roll with birdies at the second, third and fourth and then almost chipped in for an eagle on the fifth before tapping in another birdie.
Harman kept the momentum on the back nine with a sensational chip-in from off the green at the par-four 12th to avoid a bogey before icing the cake with a brilliant approach to the par-five 18th before nailing his eagle putt.
He needed only 23 putts for his round and if his stroke remains as steady at the weekend when heavy rain is predicted, he will be tough to catch.
If he is looking for lucky omens, the last two winners at Hoylake — Tiger Woods in 2006 and Rory McIlroy in 2014 — were also on 132 after two rounds.
McIlroy arrived as pre-tournament favourite but he suffered more frustration with his putter, managing to improve only one shot from his first-round 71 to sit nine shots behind Harman and tied for 11th place.
South African amateur Christo Lamprecht came down to earth with a bump after sharing the overnight lead. Following an impressive first-round 66, he slumped to an error-strewn 79 but just about made the cut for the weekend.
Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, the other first-round leader, dropped back to two under after a three-over 74.
Additional reporting from AP