Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen set a new record for the lowest halfway total at the major tournament to establish a two-shot lead at Royal St George’s.
Oosthuizen shot a 65 featuring an eagle and four birdies for a 36-hole score that eclipsed the previous best of 130, set by Sir Nick Faldo in 1992 and matched by Brandt Snedeker in 2012.
Already a runner-up in all four major championships, Oosthuizen took his unwanted total of near misses to six by finishing second in both the US PGA and the US Open this year.
But the 38-year-old South African, who won the Open at St Andrews in 2010 and lost a play-off at the same venue in 2015, is in pole position to claim an overdue second major.
At 11 under par, Oosthuizen was two shots clear of 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa, with three-time major winner Jordan Spieth a stroke further back.
Debutant Morikawa in Open pursuit of Oosthuizen
Morikawa had earlier carded a 64, a shot outside the course record and two adrift of the major mark set by Branden Grace at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
The American, 24, could only finish in a tie for 71st in last week’s Scottish Open but credited the experience – and changing three of his irons to cope with the links turf – for his improvement on the Kent coast, where Ben Curtis was the last debutant to win the Open in 2003.
“Last week I wanted to win but I came out of it learning a lot more,” Morikawa said. “The style of golf is different and last week helped tremendously.”
Spieth would have shared second with Morikawa but for a bogey at 15. His round of 67 left him alone in third on eight under, one shot ahead of a group that includes world No1 Dustin Johnson.
Andy Sullivan is the highest-placed Englishman. He shares seventh on six under, just ahead of compatriot Paul Casey, US Open winner Jon Rahm and four-time major winnner Brooks Koepka.
Defending Open champion Shane Lowry is on four under after a 65. Rory McIlroy made four birdies and four bogeys to remain level par.