The Open: Stenson leads European charge with sparkling 65 as Big Four suffer at hands of wind-swept Troon

Henrik Stenson has risen to become Phil Mickelson's biggest threat at The Open in Troon, following a second-round of -6

The Open: Stenson leads European charge with sparkling 65 as Big Four suffer at hands of wind-swept Troon
Henrik Stenson blitzed the course with a stunning 65 (image via: telegraph)

At stages on Friday morning's play, it felt as though Phil Mickelson was going to run away with The Open and waltz to his second Claret Jug

Having mastered the Royal Troon course on the opening day to the tune of a record-equalling eight-under par, Mickelson started Friday on fire to end his round -10, before a surging Swede in the form of Henrik Stenson put his name in contention going into the weekend. 

Henrik Stenson observes a putt (image source: Mike Ehrmann / Staff - Getty Images)

Unless there is an astonishing finish by one of the late starters, Stenson's round of 65 will be the best of Friday's play, and has moved him just one shot behind Mickelson who remains atop the leaderboard.

Stenson drops just one shot in blistering second round

Starting the day three-under par, Stenson made his move on the relative favourable front-nine, making birdie at holes three, four and five. 

Soon into his grove, the 40-year-old added more red to his scorecard on the seventh, before losing a shot on the final hole of the front-nine as the weather started to turn. 

Playing alongside Zach Johnson (-5) and Adam Scott (E), Stenson made instant amends after the turn, reaching the tenth green in two before dribbling home his birdie putt. 

The remainder of the back nine saw Henrik pick up birdies on 13 and 16 without dropping a shot as he mastered the course while others around him were failing further behind on the leaderboard. 

After paring the 18th, Stenson confirmed his excellent round of 65, and all-but booked a Saturday grouping with the big Lefty, Phil Mickelson (-10).

Predicted gusts curtail chances of early-late brigade

Stenson was one of the lucky players to go out early on the Friday, enjoying the best of the Scottish conditions. 

The likes of Louis Oosthuizen (-12) were not so lucky, as the wind and rain engulfed the links coursem making it a trecherous afternoon for those who had had early tee times on the opening day.

The 'Big Four' of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler all suffered, with Spieth a threat to even miss the cut alongside the likes of Masters champion Danny Willett, Luke Donald and Matthew Fitzpatrick

The only player in the top 15 placings while out there late in the day was Steve Stricker, as the conditions dictated much the leaderboard.