Date: July 18, 2009
Author: PA Sport

Turnberry bares its teeth

The Open Championship turned from a pussycat into a beast on Friday – but while Tiger Woods and all but four of the Australian contingent fell victim, Tom Watson continued magically on his merry way. Mathew Goggin is the leading Aussie contender at Turnberry after a two-over-par 72 saw him maintain his hold of a top-10 place. The Tasmanian followed his opening 66 to take a share of ninth spot, just three strokes behind joint leaders Watson and Steve Marino. Unheralded Daniel Gaunt fired a brilliant three-under 67 to move into a tie for 53rd at three-over alongside Stuart Appleby, while Robert Allenby just made the cut at four-over. Adam Scott joined Woods to narrowly miss out on five-over while John Senden blew his chances with a disastrous 80 to follow his first-round 66. There will be no New Zealand representation on the weekend after Josh Geary, David Smail and Mark Brown missed the cut while Michael Campbell withdrew with six holes remaining in his second round. Birdies at the 16th and 17th came too late to save world No.1 Woods from missing only his second cut in 49 majors as a professional and his first in the Open Championship. But just before the three-time winner made his shock exit – a horror run of seven dropped shots in six holes around the turn did the damage in a 74 – 59-year-old five-time champion Watson unbelievably sank 60-foot birdie putts on both the 16th and 18th greens. And with the second of those he joined little-known fellow American Marino out in front on five-under at the halfway stage. In the wind and rain Watson, back on the course where he won his &aposDuel in the Sun&apos with Jack Nicklaus in 1977, added a level-par 70 to his opening 65 and is thought to be the oldest player ever to lead a major. Sam Snead was 54 when he held top spot halfway through the 1966 US PGA Championship. “I would not be here if I didn&apost think I could win,” said Watson before comparing himself to &aposanother old fart&apos, namely Greg Norman, who at 53 led with nine holes to go at Birkdale last July. “I said yesterday that the spirits are with me. They keep me focused on the game plan.” “I guess the memories are with me, all the wonderful memories I&aposve had playing links golf.” “To be able to be doing what I&aposm doing, that&aposs pretty cool at age 59.” In September he will be 60. Watson is playing his 32nd Open. Marino is playing his first – but that did not stop Ben Curtis winning at Sandwich six years ago or Watson at Carnoustie in 1975. The 29-year-old Marino is on his first-ever trip to Britain and a week ago he was not even in the field. He has never won a US Tour title, but was in a play-off in May, stands 77th in the world and is a star in the making according to 1989 winner Mark Calcavecchia, who lies a stroke behind. “He really doesn&apost have any weaknesses that I&aposve seen,” said 49-year-old Calcavecchia, like Watson trying to become the oldest major winner in history. “He&aposs a great kid and has got a ton of talent. He&aposs going to win soon and it may even be this week.” Just getting to Scotland was an adventure for Marino, whose 20-foot eagle putt on the long 17th helped him to a two-under 68 – as, of course, did holing a 116-yard wedge at the third and sinking a bunker shot three holes later. Originally third reserve, he was playing in Illinois last week when he moved up two spots, but did not have his passport with him and so asked his father – a missile defence engineer – to fly from Virginia to Florida to pick it up and send it to him. Then, just before crossing the Atlantic, he was told that Japan&aposs Shingo Katayama had pulled out with a back injury and he would be playing his first Open. “They have links courses in the States, but it&aposs not like it is over here,” said Marino, whose early pro career included a 13-under-par 59 in a mini-tour event in Arizona. “I&aposm just having a blast. It&aposs awesome.” “I love the challenge that it presents. You have to drive it straight and, most importantly, you have to stay patient and stay positive.” “Once you start getting down on yourself and thinking negatively it will go bad real quick.” Defending champion Padraig Harrington, after early exits from his last five Tour events, was facing the possibility of another when he stood four-over with five to play, but the Dubliner parred the next three, birdied the 17th and made his four on the last to make sure he survived. He may be eight back, but the first hat-trick of Claret Jugs since Peter Thomson in 1956 cannot yet be ruled out. First-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez could add only a 73 to his 64, but England&aposs Ross Fisher, whose wife could go into labour at any time, improved to the same three-under total with a 68. In the clubhouse alongside them are major winners Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh along with unheralded Japanese golfer Kenichi Kuboya. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, as well as having the thrill of watching Watson, guaranteed himself the silver medal as leading amateur. Only two were in the 156-strong field and while German Stephan Gross, the European champion, could do no better than nine-over, British champion Manassero shot a superb 70 to be one-over and safely through.