CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Zach Johnson often gets confused with his namesake, world number one Dustin, but there was absolutely no mistaking which of the two was happiest after the British Open second round on Friday.
While Zach (67) surged through the field in cold, wet conditions at Carnoustie to share top spot on six-under with fellow American Kevin Kisner (70), Dustin (72) was packing his bags after missing the cut on 148, six over.
“I’ve been called Dustin many times,” the joint leader told reporters. “I doubt he’s been called Zach that many times.
“Maybe some people do assume, when they see the name up there, that it’s Dustin. The comparison of Johnson and Johnson is probably not fair to me or him.”
Among the title hopefuls tucked in behind the leaders were home favourites Tommy Fleetwood (65) and Rory McIlroy (69).
Fourteen-times major winner Tiger Woods registered a second level-par 71 but Justin Thomas (77), the world number two, failed to make the weekend on 146.
The umbrellas were up and the waterproofs out as rain greeted the players at the start.
The par-71 seaside links represented a very different challenge to the first round, with the players taking much longer clubs off the tee as the earlier bone-dry fairways suddenly became a thing of the past.
World number 52 Zach Johnson, who won the event at St Andrews three years ago and has posted two other top-10 finishes in golf’s oldest major, recovered from a bogey at the opening hole by birdying the third, fourth, sixth, 14th and 18th.
He produced a grin as wide as the North Sea that skirts the Carnoustie layout and raised his putter to salute the crowd when he rammed in a 35-foot putt at the closing hole.
“The reverence I have for this championship, I’m not suggesting that someone doesn’t have a higher reverence, but I’d argue with them,” said Johnson.
“I greatly appreciate how the game was formed over here, how this championship came into fruition back in 1860. Everything about it I love.”
Johnson was one of the early starters and by the time Kisner had teed off just before 1pm local time, the grey Scottish mist and drizzle were beginning to give way to the sunshine and blue skies that lit up the first part of the week.
Kisner started on five-under and had picked up three more strokes by the time he stood on the final tee. The infamous Barry Burn, though, gobbled up his approach to the 18th and a double-bogey six meant he also finished on six-under 136.
Fleetwood, who shot a course record 63 here at last year’s Dunhill Links Championship, strung together six birdies in a sizzling round but the Englishman was not entirely satisfied.
“I never felt fully comfortable out there,” said last month’s U.S. Open runner-up after finishing on 137 alongside Americans Pat Perez (68) and Xander Schauffele (66).
“A lot of the shots I was looking up and I was really happy they were going straight. I didn’t feel fully confident in my swing.”
Fellow early starter McIlroy, by contrast, was extremely pleased after he mixed four birdies with two bogeys.
“Geez, under those conditions, I would have taken that score going out,” said the Northern Irishman after posting a 138 total along with South African pair Erik Van Rooyen and Zander Lombard and Americans Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau.
“It was so damp and cold enough, the game plan I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I couldn’t do it.”
Woods thanked the fans for ignoring the inclement weather.
“It’s fantastic to have the support we’ve had, for as many people that came out in the rain to support us,” he said. “They walked all the way around cheering for us — it’s very appreciated.”
Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond