LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England –- Were this 141st Open Championship a Par 3 Tournament, your runaway leader would be Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen.
Don’t know him? Come on, he won the Sicilian Open earlier this year and while wearing an electric pink shirt in Friday’s second round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the 22-year-old finished birdie-birdie to shoot a second-round, 4-under 66 and push to 5 under.
While performing those heroics, he continued to pepper the par 3s at this seaside links. One day after making birdie at all four par 3s, Olesen added two more. He’s birdied the ninth and 12th both days and added birdies at the first and fifth Thursday.
“I’ve hit my irons amazing the last three or four weeks, actually,” Olesen said. “I’ve just hit them really close. So my caddie was a little bit . . . he didn’t understand (why) I didn’t make the (birdie try) on the first to make a birdie there.”
Not that he hasn’t handled the bigger stuff, because neither the 17th (453) and 18th (413) is a pushover. Olesen, however, has not made a birdie at either par 5.
But when he pushed to 5 under in front of a crowd of admirers, Olesen secured a spot in Saturday’s penultimate pairing, alongside none other than Tiger Woods, who knows a thing or two about being 22 and doing electric things.
“(When) I walked down 18, I knew if I made a birdie I had a chance to play with Tiger,” Olesen said. “That was amazing. He’s been my idol for so many years. So it’s fantastic to have a chance to play with him. And I’m really looking forward to it.”
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BID THEM FAREWELL FROM LYTHAM: Rough days for both Phil Mickelson (78) and Charl Schwartzel (75) as they saw their impressive streaks end. They had made the cut in each of the last 11 major championships.
When the cut fell at 3 over, 83 players made it into weekend play.
While some late stumbles by unheralded types such as Steven Tiley and Aaron Townsend opened a large enough door to allow some impressive names in at 143 (Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, Charles Howell, Tom Watson and John Daly among them), those who finished at 144 or worse were sent packing.
Beyond Mickelson and Schwartzel, those hitting the exit included Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Bo Van Pelt, Stewart Cink, Ryo Ishikawa, Robert Allenby, and each of the last two winners here at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, David Duval and Tom Lehman.
Garcia hadn’t missed the cut in an Open since 2004 and he had made 11 of the previous 12.
Kaymer, meanwhile, had been perfect – four starts, four cuts made – but Ishikawa has now missed the cut in three of his four starts in this major.
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HE’S IN, BUT IS HE REALLY? When he completed his round of 70, Westwood was outside the cut and didn’t appear to be excited to discuss his chances of making it.
“I don’t know. I haven’t got a crystal ball,” he said.
The world’s third-ranked player, while terribly disappointed in his opening play, was pleased with how he rebounded. Still, at 3 over, he’s 13 off the halfway lead and didn’t sound very optimistic about his chances at victory.
“I would say it’s remote with the weather forecast (milder temperatures, very little wind), because I think from the cut line you’d need it to blow pretty strongly,” Westwood said. “I wouldn’t see the lads coming back when everybody else is going forward.”
More likely, Westwood will remain majorless, including 0-for-18 in the Open Championship.
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NO RED: Richard Finch (74-79) and Ian Keenan (76-83) never had a chance, had they entered any sort of skins pool. Neither man made a birdie in two days.
It was particularly painful in Round 2 for Finch at the par-4 eighth, because he required 10 strokes.
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LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Yeah, that’s the motto for real estate agents, but it’s shared by those who determine where holes are cut for major championship play.
Keegan Bradley was among those who suggested that Round 2 was more difficult than Thursday for one good reason. He said he never saw so many hole locations on top of, or just over, little knobs.
“The pins were way more difficult,” Bradley said, though he insisted he wasn’t complaining. “I like it. It was fun.”
Bradley’s viewpoint was shared by several others, including Steve Stricker.
“It was so different from (Thursday). If you short-sided yourself (Thursday), you could still get it up-and-down. That was not the case today. Every pin was on a little knob.”
Course set-up officials with the Royal & Ancient countered that hole locations are selected earlier in the week and will generally be followed – barring wild weather. Since wild weather hasn’t been part of the equation, they don’t seem to be agreeing with the players – and guess what, the numbers don’t support the players in this case.
If the players think hole locations were tougher Friday, then they may want to consider this: The field average Thursday was 71.583 when 36 sub-par rounds were recorded, and those numbers Friday barely were only slightly off (71.980 and 29). A 6-under 64 was fired each day and as for the scoring figures, here they are: 426 birdies Thursday, 407 Friday; nine eagles Thursday, just one Friday; 80 doubles or worse Thursday, 98 Friday.
And the arbitrator says? Actually, he won’t. He’ll simply suggest that weather conditions being similar, the course played mildly more difficult in Round 2. But not enough to point fingers.
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THIS ‘N THAT: The only eagle of the day came at the par-4 18th, Greg Owen holing out to shoot his second consecutive 71. Owen finished 23rd at Lytham in 2001 . . . . . In his 26th consecutive start in the Open Championship, Mark Calcavecchia, 52, made the cut for the 19th time. He’s made the cut in three of his four starts at Lytham. Now going 71-68 as he did here certainly is notable, but Calcavecchia himself would tell you it’s been part of his recent MO. He opened 67-69 at Turnberry in 2009 and 70-67 at St. Andrews in 2010, only to fade to T-27 and 73rd, respectively . . . . . Round 2 was certainly a tougher go for Nicolas Colsaerts as the tall one from Belgium plummeted. Backing up a 65 with a 77, he went from a share of second to T-51 . . . . . No group was worse than Paul Casey, Trevor Immelman and Ben Curtis. They were a combined 29 over as each of them missed the cut. Casey was 3 under for his first 12 holes, 14 over for the next 24 . . . . . Rolling along nicely at 2 under, Padraig Harrington played his back nine in 40 to shoot 72 and get halfway home in 2-over 142, now tied for 51st.