Jordan Spieth wipes away the doubts in Birkdale rainstorm

What are Spieth's chances of winning The Open? (1:35)

Tony Kornheiser and Pablo Torre dissect Jordan Spieth's Open chances after he ends the second round with a two-stroke lead. (1:35)

SOUTHPORT, England -- The shocking way he lost the 2016 Masters and the psychoanalysis of how Jordan Spieth might overcome such a devastating defeat was drowned out like the British rainstorm he experienced Friday.

Spieth never could quite wash away the questions, but he has done his best to put the worst day of his career behind him. He added two worldwide victories last year and has posted two more in 2017.

And now he is contending in a major championship again.

Spieth had gone four majors since the Masters meltdown without being a factor, his two major titles in 2015 a memory. Since his ball twice splashed in Rae's Creek at Augusta National, Spieth found himself mostly frustrated in the game's biggest tournaments.

But Thursday's bogey-free 65 followed by a determined 69 in difficult weather Friday at Royal Birkdale has him atop the leaderboard at the 146th Open by two shots over Matt Kuchar.

And he's back where he belongs, doing Jordan Spieth things like chipping in for a par, making long birdie putts and coming up with a clutch eagle.

"Very satisfying," said Spieth, who is playing in his fifth Open, his best finish being missing a playoff by a stroke two years ago at St. Andrews. "We seem to have grinded it out. I don't know if we'd be in any better score if I was on the other side of the draw. You just don't know where your breaks fall and where they don't.

"My patience wore a bit thin around the turn, but I was able to regroup. And that chip-in [at the 10th] was massive for par."

Spieth has unfairly been portrayed as a guy who plays well only when he makes a ton of putts. It is a false narrative that dogs Spieth, one that could be viewed as an insult to his competitive resolve, his ability to fight through adverse conditions, the unrelenting desire to simply will the golf ball into the hole.

In truth, Spieth has played well in 2017 despite not making enough putts. It is the one aspect of his game that he points to as holding him back even though he has won twice on the PGA Tour this season.

For example, Spieth leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained/approach-the-green -- the part of the game where he is often cited as being substandard. On Friday during the second round of The Open, he stiffed his approach at the par-3 12th in setting up an easy birdie.

Another example: Spieth is a so-so 36th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained/putting. On Friday, he missed a 3-footer for par on the 16th hole, a putt he should have made and one you'd expect him to hole -- especially given all the talk about how he makes everything.

And so it goes. Spieth is leading The Open at the halfway point, and it's a little bit of everything that has him on top. He hit just five fairways and only eight of 18 greens but needed just 25 putts.

A three-hole stretch starting at the 10th is what made his round Friday.

With the weather turning poor, Spieth was in trouble at the par-4 10th and was off the green in 3 shots. He then chipped in for par. At the par-4 11th, he holed one of those long birdie putts he has become famous for, a 30-footer. And at the par-3 12th, he knocked his tee shot to a few feet.

He played those holes in 2 under and took the lead, overcoming a bogey at the 13th hole by holing an eagle putt at the 15th.

"I definitely had reminiscences of my first two rounds of the Masters [2015, which Spieth won] with him," said defending Open champion Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth during the first two rounds here, as well. "He might not have played as well tee to green, but his flatstick has been working very much the same way. He's made a lot of putts, momentum-crucial putts for par and made some huge ones for birdies, some long ones and midrange ones. Certainly his putting has been on this week, and that's why he's in the lead for sure.

"I definitely think he's the man to beat over the weekend if he keeps on putting like that."

Stenson noted, however, that what Spieth did from the 10th to the 12th holes wasn't all about putting. And it was a huge part of the tournament for Spieth.

"To chip in for par after being in trouble twice on 10, then he holes a 35-footer across the green on 11, and then he hits it stiff on the next," Stenson said. "That could have been 3 or 4 shots different over those three holes. If it's your week, you need one of those momentum-keepers. He certainly got that with the chip-in and walks away 2 under on those three. I definitely see him being dangerous over the weekend."

There are still two rounds to go. He has scrappy Kuchar chasing him, as well as local favorite Ian Poulter and U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. Rory McIlroy, with some renewed confidence after a solid 68 that was one of just seven scores in the 60s, is just 5 strokes back.

But Spieth is where we got used to seeing him. This is the 12th time he has led after a round of a major going back to Masters and U.S. Open wins of two years ago. And it's tough not to like him now.

"Anytime you're in the last group on a weekend in a major, you get nervous," Spieth said. "And I'll be feeling it this weekend a bit. But I enjoy it because, as long as I approach it positively and recognize that this is what you want to feel because you're in the position you want to be in, then the easier it is to hit solid shots and to create solid rounds."