SANDWICH, England – Five things you need to know for the weekend at the Open Championship:
1.) Fresh start: Darren Clarke and Lucas Glover are the 36-hole leaders at the Open Championship. Clarke, of Northern Ireland, is the local favorite, while Glover is trying to end the Americans’ losing streak in majors. Clarke and Glover are tied at 4-under 136.
Glover is two years removed from his first major victory; he won earlier this year at the Wells Fargo Championship. Clarke, 42, also won this year, claiming his 13th European Tour title at the Iberdrola Open in Spain, his first victory in three years and only third since 2003.
Martin Kaymer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Chad Campbell and Thomas Bjorn, who’s trying to make up for past heartbreak at Royal St. George’s, are one shot back.
It’s a tightly-packed leaderboard. Seventy-one players made the cut at 3 over or better, meaning none of the remaining players are more than seven shots off the pace. Notables to miss the cut include Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney, Ian Poulter, Ernie Els and Matteo Manassero.
“You make the cut and you’re going to have a chance,” said Rickie Fowler, who’s even par after two rounds. “Just go out and play well this weekend. So it’s basically a new tournament starting tomorrow.”
2.) The forecast: Saturday may not be a lot of fun, even for those contending at the Open. Rain and wind are forecast throughout the day, with the bad stuff supposed to hit in the late afternoon while the leaders are on the course. This could allow one of Saturday’s early starters to rocket up this tightly-packed leaderboard.
The forecast calls for light rain and winds between 15-20 mph during the morning and early afternoon. The forecast changes to heavy rain around 5 p.m.
“I’ve seen (the forecast), and I don’t want to think about it,” Charl Schwartzel said with a laugh.
3.) Changes pay off: Speaking of Schwartzel, he’s in good position to add another major to his resume. He’s two shots off the lead after rounds of 71-67. Martin Kaymer, another 26-year-old that recently won a major, is one shot back after shooting 68-69.
Schwartzel has finished in the top 10 in the past two majors, winning the Masters and finishing ninth at the U.S. Open. Kaymer’s game is starting to come around after making swing changes this year. He had a chance to win his last start, the French Open, but finished fourth.
“It definitely was worth it to do,” Kaymer said. “And now I can feel like slowly everything will come together. I am playing better golf already. It’s just a matter of patience.
4.) Eye on the young Irishman: Rory McIlroy won’t run away with this Open, but he’s still in contention. McIlroy shot 71-69 to finish 36 holes at even-par 140, four off the lead.
“Four shots in 36 holes on this golf course in these conditions is nothing. It really isn’t,” McIlroy said.
5.) A walk to remember: Phil Mickelson’s attempt to forget his British Open past could make this a week for him to remember.
Mickelson shot 69 Friday to get into contention at Royal St. George’s. He’s at 1-under 139 through the first 36 holes of the Open Championship. Mickelson has just one top-10 in 17 Open appearances; he’s finished in the top 25 just five times.
“I just wanted to start fresh because I’ve loved links golf,” Mickelson said about his mindset this week. “I just had to really enjoy the challenge more.”
His 139 here ties his second-best opening 36 holes at an Open.
Here’s how other notables fared over the Open’s first two rounds:
T3. Martin Kaymer, 68-69
T3. Thomas Bjorn, 65-72
T7. Charl Schwartzel, 71-67
T7. Davis Love III, 70-68
T7. Tom Lehman, 71-67
T7. Dustin Johnson, 70-68
T14. Adam Scott, 69-70
T14. Phil Mickelson, 70-69
T14. Tom Lewis (a), 65-74
T19. Steve Stricker, 69-71
T19. Rory McIlroy, 71-69
T19. Rickie Fowler, 70-70
T19. Sergio Garcia, 70-70
T32. Jason Day, 71-70
T32. Bubba Watson, 69-72
T45. Jim Furyk, 72-70
T45. Peter Uihlein (a), 71-71
T59. Gary Woodland, 75-68
T59. Ryan Moore, 69-74
T59. KJ Choi, 71-72
T59. Paul Casey, 74-69