ST ANDREWS (Scotland) • English golfer Danny Willett shrugged off two late three-putt efforts to set the early clubhouse target on nine under par in the weather-interrupted second round of the 144th British Open yesterday.
After a torrential downpour left pools of water lying all over the St Andrews layout and caused play to be suspended for 3hr 14min, it started to rain birdies for double European Tour winner Willett.
The 27-year-old, who missed the cut in two of his three previous Open appearances, picked up strokes at the second, fifth, ninth and 10th holes to go to 10 under for the championship before he three-putted the 15th and 17th, his par-saving effort at the infamous Road Hole horse-shoeing out.
However, he hit straight back by knocking in an eight-foot birdie effort at the last to post a three-under 69 for a total of 135.
That gave him a two-stroke lead over 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson (71) and Scotland's Marc Warren (69).
1st rd (Gbr/Irl unless stated)
65 Dustin Johnson (USA)
66 Zach Johnson (USA), Retief Goosen (Rsa), Paul Lawrie, Danny Willett, Jason Day (Aus), Robert Streb (USA)
67 Kevin Na (USA), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Jordan Spieth (USA), Jordan Niebrugge (USA)
68 Luke Donald
70 Adam Scott (Aus), Phil Mickelson (USA), Sergio Garcia (Esp)
71 Martin Kaymer (Ger), Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson (USA)
72 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Rickie Fowler (USA), Patrick Reed (USA)
73 Henrik Stenson (Swe), Jim Furyk (USA)
76 Tiger Woods (USA)
Overnight leader Dustin Johnson, who had yet to get his round under way at press time, was on seven under, two in front of playing partner Jordan Spieth. Spieth, 21, is attempting to become the first player since fellow American Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the first three Majors of the season.
Following the early rain delay, play restarted at 10am local time.
An hour later, there was little sign of what had gone before as the sun began to shine, the wind died down and the puddles of water started to disappear.
Earlier, the greens, fairways and bunkers were saturated and the few brave fans in attendance were huddled in the exposed, rain-lashed grandstands.
Sandbags were needed to prevent water from entering the media centre.
The early starters were likely to have the better of the conditions because forecasts predicted that the wind was expected to return with a vengeance in the afternoon, gusting up to 56kmh.
Willett, who had never placed higher than a tie for 15th in a Major, was on Thursday concerned that inclement weather could affect his score after carding a 66 in his opening round.
The son of a vicar had told BBC Sport: "It could be Armageddon-type stuff by the looks of the weather forecast. When the wind and rain gets up, it can be a lottery."
Willett could yet hit the jackpot.
Day 3: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 5pm