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British Open scores 2016: Phil Mickelson gets some weather luck and stays in the lead

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Phil Mickelson snuck through Troon on the right side of the draw Friday, playing well yet again and dodging some intense winds that wiped out the late half of the field.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The primary reason why The Open is the best major in golf is its uniqueness, how it stands apart so much from the other three American-based majors. So much of what separates it is charming and positive, but some argue its biggest negative is what we saw on Friday at Royal Troon.

It's not really an Open until the wind starts whipping across the links and the rain starts hitting you sideways. We got that on Friday, and as we've seen at so many Opens in the past, it did not affect the entire field in the same equitable way. Different sides of the draw can often get a benefit at the other majors, but never as consistently and dramatically as at The Open.

Put simply, the second half of the tee sheet on Friday played a different course. Whether that bothers you is up to you. This is how The Open goes -- some years players catch the right wave, and other years they can play as well as they possibly can and still not have a chance. The top players on the leaderboard who got caught in the blustery conditions on Friday afternoon were Rory McIlroy, Byeong Hun An, and Patrick Reed. They're 2-under and a good eight shots off the pace. Others like Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, among the favorites this week, desperately clung to the cut line, eventually making the weekend but walking off resigned about their chances to catch Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson is again the pacesetter at an event he's come to cherish and embrace. That wasn't the case for so much of his career, but now he can't stop telling us how much he loves the links and The Open conditions. The lead was largely built on that magical major championship scoring record round from Thursday, when the 46-year-old was unconscious with the putter and posted an 8-under round of 63. The goal on Friday was just to avoid the big mistake, enjoying the three-shot cushion he had at the start of the day. That margin shrunk, but Phil played it close to perfect, at one point building a five-shot lead after nearly acing the famous Postage Stamp 8th at Troon.

It was all working for Phil. The irons off the tee kept him out of the junk, the wedge game was its usual world-class form, and that putter stayed hot. Even when he missed a putt, the ball was right on the lip. As the lead grew to five shots, and with the forecast calling for those later tee times to get swallowed up in the conditions, this looked like it could be a runaway at the 36-hole mark.

Henrik Stenson, however, decided to put the pressure on in that same morning wave, stringing together a round that was almost as impressive as Phil's heater from Thursday. Stenson poured in seven birdies on the day, including three on the tough inward nine, to post a 6-under 65. That left him just a shot back from Phil, who just an hour or so earlier looked unchallenged.

Stenson is an elite challenger, too. The big Swede has achieved just about everything in the game, save for the major championship. It's not for lack of talent, of course, and he's launching those fairway woods (no one in the world hits them as well as the Iceman) around Troon after failing to get seriously involved in the last six majors. Now he'll be out in the final Saturday pairing alongside Mickelson after turning in the round of the day.

Mickelson and Stenson are definitely the lead dogs, but there's plenty of firepower on the leaderboard behind them. Former major winners Keegan Bradley, who had the best round of his disappointing season, and Zach Johnson, the defending champion, are both within shouting distance.

And if the weather does get sideways again, as expected, then the leaderboard can get jumbled in a hurry. Links lover and 2013 Open champion Phil is confident it won't affect him.

I was actually more worried about yesterday's round than I was these coming rounds because I feel very comfortable in the conditions to be able to shoot a number, to shoot a good score. I was worried about guys going low on the beautiful day yesterday and not keeping pace. So yesterday's round was a big round for me to ultimately keep pace or set the pace, but to not lose too much ground because I felt like these coming three days are the days that I'd be best prepared for, days like today.

Let's get to Saturday already. Here's your top-10 leaderboard after 36 holes: