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Round 2 Recap: Dreams may come true
Halfway through the 137th Open Championship and the possibilites are endless. K.J. Choi leads, and a host of familiar, yet surprising names are within striking distance.
By T.J. Auclair, PGATOUR.COM Interactive Producer
SOUTHPORT, England -- If after two rounds of the 137th Open Championship you're a little confused as to whether Royal Birkdale is a golf course or something out of a fairytale, it's OK.
Royal Birkdale - apparently - is both.
How else do you explain the leaderboard after 36 holes? At the top spot there's South Korea's K.J. Choi at 1-under 139, attempting to become the first player from Asia to win a major championship.
"I think today was probably my best round I've ever played at a British Open," said Choi, who actually made his Open debut at Birkdale in 1998, after a 3-under 67 in the second round. "Today all my shots, the swing, the putting, everything worked the way I wanted it to."
|More Open Championship:|
|Open Championship Video|
|Norman refuses to fold|
|Villegas' birdie finish|
|Rocco rolling along|
|Furyk finds right ball flight|
Next up, 53-year-old Greg Norman. Fifty-three for crying out loud! Weekend hackers all over the world have probably played more golf in the last three years than the White Shark. He's too busy for golf these days between wineries, yachts, clothing companies, marrying Chris Evert and taking up tennis.
How is he doing it?
Justin Rose, the Cinderella of the 1998 Open at Birkdale where he finished fourth as a 17-year-old amateur, thinks he might know.
"He's got the body of a 23-year-old and the head of a 53-year-old," Rose, currently 6 over, said. "That's a good combination. I'm impressed with every part of his game. His short game is sharp."
And how about Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who found a Claret Jug at the end of the rainbow last summer? At the start of the week, he wasn't even sure he'd be able to play because of a strained right wrist. Thanks to a birdie-par-eagle-birdie finish on Friday, Harrington shot a 2-under 68 in the second round and at 2 over for the championship, he'll start the third round just three shots off the pace.
Here's a fun little nugget to impress your friends with while you're sitting around the cooler this weekend: Harrington is trying to become the sixth player since 1951 to win consecutive Opens. That list consists of Tiger Woods (2005-'06), Tom Watson (1982-'83), Lee Trevino (1971-'72), Arnold Palmer (1961-'62) and Peter Thomson (1954-'56).
So where's the fun fact? Believe it or not, of that list of six, Woods is the only player not to have won one of those titles at Birkdale. To make matters worse for the field, Harrington has the luck of the Irish on his side -- and Birkdale lies right beside the Irish Sea!
Colombia's Camilo Villegas is playing in his first Open Championship this week and to say he's making the most of it would be an understatement. Before he teed off in the second round, Villegas was at 6 over. After bogeys on Nos. 1 and 2 to start the round, he was 8 over.
When you're 8 over and just two holes into the second round at the Open, most players are probably wondering if there's any chance they can catch a late flight home that night.
But, in case you couldn't tell by the flamboyant clothes, Villegas has a touch of confidence. And it's a good thing, too.
He hung in there, and closed out the round with five consecutive birdies to jump from a tie for 74th to sole third with a tournament-best 5-under 65 to get to 1 over.
"I had 34 putts yesterday, I think I had 23 today," he said. "So, awful putting round yesterday, unbelievable putting round today and very excited to be right in it."
We're not done here, folks. Still a few more. Like everyone's favorite underdog, Rocco Mediate.
He stole our hearts when he battled Tiger at the U.S. Open a month ago. Even an 18-hole playoff wasn't enough for Tiger to get rid of Rocco. But, as is usually the case with Tiger, if you give him too many chances to win, you're eventually going to lose. That happened to Rocco on that 19th playoff hole, but he gained fans around the world for his effort.
Apparently that renewed confidence -- or, perhaps a confidence he never knew he possessed -- travels well. Like really well. Across countries and oceans.
Mediate shot a 2-over 72 on Friday, but put that along with his even-par effort on Thursday and he's just three shots back.
"I love this game and that I can do it for a living in front of people," Mediate said, which made it no wonder why he's playing so well. "It's just the coolest thing in the world. I don't know how much better of a job you can have. I want to keep it for awhile."
No worries there.
You're forgiven if you don't believe what's about to come next. Tied for fourth along with Mediate, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk, Robert Allenby, Harrington and Alexander Noren is - drum-roll, please -
Go ahead. We don't blame you if you want to go check a leaderboard to confirm that, we'll wait. Good now?
The 2001 Open champion, who has made an art out of missed cuts the way Shaq has done with missed free throws, has come out of nowhere like the sun in England to contend for this Open. He shot a 1-under 69 on Friday.
Just to drive home the point of Duval's play at Birkdale being so unfathomable, consider this: since 2004, the former world No. 1 has played in 73 events (including this week). Over that time, he has made the cut on -- are you ready for this? -- just 20 occasions.
And last, but certainly not least, there's our old Open Championship friend Jean Van de Velde. The Frenchman who left us all in shock with his final-hole debacle at Carnoustie in 1999, made it through a qualifier to earn his spot at Birkdale.
So what has he done with it? Four over and just five shots back after 36 holes.
Just like any good fairytale, the possibilities at this 137th Open are endless.
|SHOT OF THE DAY||ROUND OF THE DAY|
|There were plenty of great shots in the second round, but Sergio Garcia's 60-foot putt that dropped into the cup for birdie on the par-3 fourth hole takes top honors.||The 5-under 65 fired by Colombia's Camilo Villegas, who is making his Open Championship debut. Villegas closed his round with five consecutive birdies to post the score.|
|EASIEST HOLE||TOUGHEST HOLE|
|The 572-yard par-5 17th. It played to a scoring average of 4.656. There were two eagles, 69 birdies, 64 pars, 18 bogeys and one double bogey on Friday.||The 499-yard par-4 sixth. It played to a scoring average of 4.662 on Friday. There were a pair of birdies, 65 pars, 73 bogeys, 12 double bogeys and two "others."|
|What the leaders said ...|
|K.J. Choi||1||1 under||I think today was probably my best round I've ever played at tthe British Open. Today all of my shots, the swing, the putting, everything worked the way I wanted it too.|
|Greg Norman||2||even par||Honestly, there's probably less pressure on me than anybody out here because even though I'm in the position I'm in, I'm going ot go out there and just say, hey, just go have fun with it.|
|Camilo Villegas||3||1 over||I obviously played unbelievable. Got off to a bad start, bogeyed the first two holes, and I don't know, I kept my composure after that. But somehow my caddie just told me to keep battling, keep grinding, and came back with two birdies on No. 4 and No. 5. The back nine was obviously very special finishing with five birdies in a row.|
|Rocco Mediate||T4||2 over||I love the way it looks [the course]. It suits me very nicely. I hit the ball way better today and shot four shots higher. I didn't make enough putts and that's the whole key obviously.|
TOUGH TIMES CONTINUE
It's fair to say John Daly, winner of the 1995 Open Championship at St. Andrews, has experienced more ups and downs in his life than most people. On Friday, however, he experienced his lowest of lows in an Open Championship with a miserable round of 19-over-par 89.
Previously, Daly's highest score in an Open was an 80. He did that on three occasions in his career -- first in the third round at Muirfield in 1992, then in the final round at
|2||The number of times Greg Norman has won the Open Championship (1986 and 1993).|
|6||The number of Open Championship wins by Harry Vardon -- the most of any player.|
|9||The number of times an Australian has won the Open Championship.|
Turnberry in 1994 and again on Thursday in the first round at Birkdale. He easily missed the cut at 29-over par.
Daly was only 1 over for the day through five holes on Friday, but that's when things got out of control. A double-bogey 6 on the sixth hole set off an 11-hole stretch that included seven bogeys, three double bogeys and a quintuple-bogey 9 (on No. 13, a par 4). When all was said and done, Daly signed for a 14-over-par 49 on the back nine.
OPPOSITE OF DALY
Ben Curtis' start to the Open on Thursday couldn't have been much worse. He triple-bogeyed No. 1, double-bogeyed No. 2 and after bogeys at Nos. 6 and 7, the 2003 Open champion was 7 over through seven holes.
Adding to the woes was Curtis' early first-round start time, which meant he had to deal with the worst weather of the tournament thus far. Rather than throw in the towel, which wouldn't have been wise anyway with all that rain, Curtis plugged away and finished with a respectable -- considering the start -- 8-over 78.
It must have been nice to sleep in for a late tee time on Friday, because Curtis came out a new man. He birdied No. 1 and eventually put up three birdies against two bogeys on the day for a nine-shot turnaround and a 1-under 69 to comfortably make the cut at 7-over 147.
Here's a breakdown of country-by-country Open Championship wins:
THREE THINGS TO LOOK FOR ON SATURDAY...
1. Expect the unexpected. This is the craziest, most unpredictable major championship leaderboard in a long, long time. Saturday will seperate the men from the boys and as Camilo Villegas proved Friday with his 5-under 65 that there are low scores out there.
2. Keep an eye on defending champ Padraig Harrington. At the start of the week, Harrington wasn't sure he'd be able to play because of a strained right wrist. Suddenly just a few days later and after an eagle-birdie finish on Friday for a 2-under 68, Harrington stands at 2 over and just three shots out of the lead.
3. Don't be surprised if Greg Norman comes back down to Earth. No offense to the Great White Shark, but this has been a dream week so far. Hopefully it doesn't come to an end. Even with as good a shape as Norman is in, the fact remains that he is 53 years old. The walking obviously won't be a problem, but the mental grind of being in a situation he hasn't been in in over a decade could take its toll as well as thoughts of the ramifications of what an epic win would mean.