Nashville native on record pace
Posted: Friday, July 20, 2012 7:02 pm
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP National Writer
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) — On a day filled with wayward shots, Brandt Snedeker was steady as can be at the British Open.
The 31-year-old Tennessean, who had never even made the cut in golf’s oldest major, surged to the lead with another bogey-free round, shooting a 6-under 64 today that left him tied with Nick Faldo for the lowest 36-hole score in Open history.
Faldo posted a 130 total at Muirfield in 1992 on the way to the last of his three British titles. Snedeker matched him with a 10-under showing over the first two days, and can only hope that come Sunday he’ll be in the same position Faldo was two decades ago — holding the claret jug.
A Nashville native and Vanderbilt graduate, Snedeker kept up his assault on the fairways, the key to navigating the claustrophobic layout at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He rapped in four birdies on the front side to make the turn with a 4-under 30. He rolled in a 25-footer for another birdie at the par-5 11th, then put his tee shot in the middle of the green on the par-3 12th and calmly sank the putt — his sixth birdie of the round.
He’s got 10 of those over the first two days. Just as important, he has yet to make a bogey.
First-round leader Adam Scott teed off in the afternoon after tying the course record with a 64 on Thursday, a mark that Snedeker matched again 24 hours later. Scott’s advantage was gone by the time he stepped on the course and he was even on the day as he approached the turn, four strokes behind the new leader.
Also at 6 under was Paul Lawrie, best known as the guy who won at Carnoustie in 1999 when Jean Van de Velde had his historic meltdown on the 72nd hole. Zach Johnson also pushed to 6 under until a double-bogey at the brutal third hole knocked him back.
Johnson was joined at 4 under by Tiger Woods, seeking his 15th major title and first in more than four years. Woods opened with a 67 and pushed his score lower into the red with a birdie at the fourth.
Graeme McDowell and James Morrison were 3 under.
No one else in the clubhouse was closer than eight strokes behind Snedeker, who is best remembered for making an emotional run at the 2008 Masters and winding up in a tie for third. Otherwise, he’s never been much of a factor in the majors; in fact, he was 0-for-3 in making the cut at his previous British Opens.
That wasn’t a concern this time, not the way he’s been playing. Snedeker proved there were plenty of birdies to be had if you kept the ball in the fairway. For many players, though, that proved to be elusive.
Rory McIlroy, who opened with a 67, knocked his ball onto an adjoining tee box at No. 3, needed a couple of whacks to escape a towering pot bunker on the ninth, and struggled to a 75 that left a daunting 10 strokes out of the lead.
“It’s just tough when you’re really trying to get something going and it’s just not quite happening,” McIlroy said.
Phil Mickelson, the runner-up last year at Royal St. George but never an Open champion, could’ve warmed up the jet before he even made the turn. Three double-bogeys led to a 78 and an 11-over 151 total. Only eight players had a higher score when he departed the club, having failed to make the cut for only the fourth time in 19 Open appearances.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Mickelson said after his worst Open round since 2008. “I obviously played terrible.”
Nicolas Colsaerts was nearly as bad. After surprising in the opening round with a 65, the big-hitting Belgian fell apart Friday, running into trouble right away with back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 2 and 3 before making a total mess of the par-5 seventh, normally one of the easier holes on the course.
His third shot missed the green, winding up in the dreaded rough. He flubbed his attempted escape, the ball going 10 yards and remaining in the tall grass. Barely able to see it, Colsaerts took another big swing and apparently missed. Finally, he chunked it out on his third try, the ball zipping over the green. A pitch and a putt left him with a triple-bogey 8.
He went from a contender to barely above the projected cutline at 142 total.
No. 1-ranked Luke Donald gave the English fans a thrill with four birdies in five holes on the front side, pushing him onto the leaderboard.
“Luuuuuke!” the gallery chanted after Donald rolled one in at No. 8 and pumped his fist.
But Donald dropped back with a couple of bogeys on his return leg, including a sloppy approach shot at the 13th that rocketed through the green and disappeared into an especially tall patch of grass. Unable to play it, he had to take a one-stroke penalty. But he recovered for a 68, leaving him at 138 at least in the mix for his first major title.
The erratic play was a striking contrast to the opening round. While Scott was grabbing the lead, 52 other players shot no worse than par. For the first time since 1998, no one in the 156-player field opened with a score in the 80s.
“It was just like a nice walk in the park,” Scott said.
After heavy rain overnight inundated the course, turning some bunkers into ponds and prompting the R&A to request fans delay their arrival so the grounds could dry out, the second round began as scheduled under sunny, blue skies. There was just a hint of the feared breezes off the Irish Sea that give the links course its bite, thought the skies began to darken in the afternoon and, as usual, spit out the occasional showers.
The rain that has soaked Britain throughout the spring and summer largely stayed away during Day 1, only to return with a vengeance during the night. One of the main spectator gates was closed at the start of play as workers furiously tried to push away all the standing water.
“We’ve had far more rain overnight than we were expecting, unfortunately,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told BBC Radio. “But the course can take it as the drainage here is good. There is some standing water, but we can play golf, and the rules of golf will deal with the casual water.”
The bunkers were the main issue. Already vulnerable to flooding because of the closeness of the sea and rains that have been over the top even by the standards of this water-logged nation, several traps had been transformed into mini-ponds by the latest batch of showers. PGA champion Keegan Bradley had to hit one of his bunker shots out of a couple of inches of water because there was no place to drop it.
There was also some standing water in the fairways, which the players tiptoed through after hitting their shots.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Published in The Messenger 7.20.12