By Tony Jimenez
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Former winner Zach Johnson continued his love affair with the British Open when he charged to the top of the leaderboard on six-under-par early in the second round on Friday.
While the 42-year-old American was plotting his way to a four-under 67 in cold, wet conditions at Carnoustie, Tommy Fleetwood (65) and Rory McIlroy (69) were delighting the home fans by moving into title contention.
Fourteen-times major winner Tiger Woods was unable to make much of an impression, level-par through 14 holes, but world number one Dustin Johnson is almost certain to miss the cut after struggling to a 72 for 148, six over.
The umbrellas were up and the waterproofs out as rain greeted the players at the start, in complete contrast to the blue skies and sunshine that have been in evidence all week.
The par-71 seaside links represented a completely different challenge to the first round, with the players taking two to three longer clubs off every tee as the earlier bone-dry fairways suddenly became a thing of the past.
Zach Johnson, who claimed the coveted Claret Jug 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 with birdies at 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 the heavens when he rammed in a 35-foot putt at the closing hole.
"I think my game lends itself to this championship because my style can play here," said Johnson. "I take what the golf course gives me and I try to execute.
"It seems to me with the exception of maybe one hole today, it was very apparent what club I needed to hit off the tee box. Yesterday it was much more trying."
Fleetwood, who shot a course record 63 at last year's Dunhill Links Championship, flourished again as the Englishman strung together six birdies to join overnight leader Kevin Kisner of the U.S. on five-under.
Late starter Kisner began his round with four successive par figures.
Such was the excellence of Fleetwood's performance that his 65 was the only sub-70 round of the first 21 starters, although he was not entirely happy with his effort.
"I never felt fully comfortable out there," said last month's U.S. Open runner-up. "Normally when you play great, you know where the ball's gone.
"A lot of the shots I was just looking up and I was really happy they were going straight. I didn't feel fully confident and fully comfortable in my swing so there's still a bit of work to do there."
McIlroy, playing in Match Eight, was the second player to break 70 on Friday as he mixed four birdies with two bogeys.
"Geez, under those conditions, I would have taken that score going out," said the four-times major winner. "It wasn't that bad but it was damp and cold enough that the game plan I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I couldn't do it.
"I would have loved to have had a bogey-free round. I made bogeys on 12 and 15 but I made enough birdies to cancel them out on the back nine."
(Editing by John O'Brien, Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)