Kuchar stands strong at Open as Stenson reels from break-in

Overnight joint leader Matt Kuchar was in a strong position halfway through the British Open on Friday as defending champion Henrik Stenson revealed the house where he is staying was burgled during the first round. Kuchar had ended Thursday in a share of the lead at five under par alongside compatriots Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka after a flawless opening 65. That gave him some leeway as the winds blew across Royal Birkdale throughout his second round, making conditions extremely tricky. The strapping 39-year-old, who has never won a major, followed up with a 71, a good effort in the circumstances but one that could have been much better save for two bogeys in the last three holes. But he is now set up perfectly heading into the weekend, while Spieth and Koepka were among those left to face the prospect of more unpleasant weather later on. "Conditions were really hard today, certainly what we expect coming over here," said the Florida-born Kuchar, whose best finish in a major to date is tied third in the Masters in 2012. "It was nearly the opposite wind of what we had yesterday. So the course played completely differently. It was quite a trying, challenging day." As Spieth and Koepka went out, the wind had died down but torrential rain moving in from the Irish Sea created its own problems and waterlogged greens forced a brief halt to play around 5:30pm (1630 GMT).

Spieth's playing partner Stenson was struggling to put himself in contention as it emerged that the house he is renting in north-west England this week was broken into on Thursday. The Swede, who won the championship at Troon in thrilling fashion a year ago, said he had been robbed of "valuable personal items" as well as all his clothing for the week. "It is obviously very special for me to be playing here in front of the fantastic Birkdale crowds as the defending Open champion so I am going to try not to let this spoil the week in any way," said Stenson, who was one-under overnight. "I am extremely grateful that my family were not in the house at the time." Elsewhere on the leaderboard, England's Ian Poulter, runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008, fired a 70 to stay at three-under overall. Richie Ramsay is two-under, while behind him Rory McIlroy has given himself a chance going into the weekend. The 2014 Open champion at Hoylake built on his strong finish to his opening round on Thursday, when he shot a one-over 71, to fire a 68 that put him safely in the clubhouse at one under par. On Thursday McIlroy was five-over through his first six holes -- on Friday he was three under par after the same stretch. There were dropped shots at 13 and 15 but a birdie at the long 17th helped complete a largely satisfactory day for the world number four. "To be in after two days and be under-par for this championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that," said McIlroy. Playing alongside McIlroy, former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel began the day on four-under, but things quickly unravelled for the South African. He had two double-bogeys and five bogeys as he ended up eight-over-par for the day and at +4 for the championship. He should still make the cut, which is projected at +5. That could allow former world number one Jason Day to sneak into the weekend, while the current top-ranked player, Dustin Johnson, should be fine at three over. Among those heading home, though, is last year's runner-up Phil Mickelson -- he had a disastrous 77 on Friday and is +10 in total. Meanwhile, 2015 champion Zach Johnson's 66, which lifted him to one-over, was in line to be the round of the day.
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