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Brian Harman surged into a formidable five-shot lead at the halfway stage of The Open at Royal Liverpool.

The American set his significant clubhouse advantage in the early morning wave, posting a flawless six-under par 65 to race clear.

Home hope Tommy Fleetwood leads the chasing pack at five-under after he was roared on by fervent support on a challenging afternoon at Hoylake.

• Just Stop Oil protestors strike at The Open

• Rory McIlroy sets moving day target 

The gusting winds made scoring difficult but Fleetwood’s crucial par save on the 18th on Friday evening will keep fans on this Wirral links dreaming of a first English winner of the Open since Sir Nick Faldo in 1992.

A possible Ryder Cup teammate is one behind Southport-born Fleetwood. The Austrian Sepp Straka embarked on a birdie blitz down the stretch, picking up shots on six of his final seven holes to finish four-under.

Harman birdied four of his first six holes and did not give one shot back before finishing in stunning style with an eagle on the par-5 18th.

His mightily impressive halfway 10-under total of 132 equals the score of Rory Mcilroy  in 2014 and Tiger Woods in 2006 on this Wirral links. Both, of course, went on to hoist the Claret Jug.

“I’ve had a hot putter the last couple of days so [will] try to ride it through the weekend,” Harman said, explaining his stunning form. 

“I’m delighted with how I’m playing. Just really focused on getting some rest and getting after it tomorrow.

• Justin Thomas and form’s unrequited love

“Just not trying to get too caught up in it,” he added when asked about being in major contention again. It’s just golf. When I held the 54-hole lead at the US Open [in 2017] I just probably thought about it too much.”

Australians Min Woo Lee and Jason Day are still firmly in the mix at three-under alongside India’s Shubhankar Sharma.

The 2017 champion Jordan Spieth was on the charge as he reached the turn at -5 but he came back in 39 shots to finish on two-under-par.

“I understand a lot can happen at an Open, but eight shots is a lot of shots to spot a player who’s playing really well,” a frustrated Spieth conceded.

Meanwhile, a nine shot deficit for McIlroy is daunting.

The 2014 Hoylake winner scrambled to a one-under par 70 but has a long climb back as he sits just inside the red numbers.

“If I can get myself to three or four under par after tomorrow, I think I’ll be right there going into the last day,” an upbeat McIlroy said.

A Just Stop Oil protest temporarily halted proceedings on the 17th, but two-time PGA Tour winner Harman could prove unstoppable here.

The daunting chase to catch the surprise leader is on.

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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