Saturday, July 16, 2011

WATSON MAKES LIGHT OF TOUGH CONDITIONS

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Two years after having a putt to win a record-equalling sixth Open title and become the oldest major winner by 11 years, Tom Watson was again rolling back the years at a wet and windy Royal St George's today.
As the forecast bad weather duly arrived on the Kent coast to send scores soaring, Watson covered the front nine in 34, one under par, to improve to one over for the championship.
At that stage the 61-year-old was the only player on the course under par for the day and just five shots off the lead shared by Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and former US Open champion Lucas Glover.
Watson, who carded the 15th hole-in-one of his career in the second round yesterday, opened with six straight pars before taking advantage of the downwind par-five seventh, finding the green in two and two-putting for birdie.
Fellow American Gary Woodland had been the only other player to break par on the front nine, the 27-year-old out in a remarkable 33 after birdies at the fifth and seventh before dropping shots at the 12th and 13th.
The par-four fourth hole was proving particularly tough, with the first five players out completing it in a cumulative 10 over par.
Australia's Matthew Millar - first out on his own at 8:55am - took six, while 1999 champion Paul Lawrie and Gregory Bourdy took seven and six respectively.
Korea's KJ Choi also carded a double-bogey six, leaving playing partner Paul Casey's bogey five looking like an eagle.
Measuring 495 yards on the card, the hole features the monstrous "Himalayas" bunker, which is around 40ft high and to be avoided at all costs, as Reg Glading discovered in the final of the English Amateur Championship in 1979.
Glading's ball lodged itself near the top and under the lip of the bunker. He climbed the hill, took a swing at the ball and fell head over heels back down the slope.
With the hole playing into the wind today the tee had been moved forward, but that did not stop Lawrie from finding the Himalayas from the tee on the way to his triple bogey.
Almost inevitably Watson was unable to maintain such form, three-putting the 11th and dropping another shot on the 12th to fall back to one over for the day.
And worse possibly lay in store on the 14th judging by the scores of others on the 543-yard par-five, with Lawrie and Casey taking seven, Woodland eight and France's Gregory Havret a 10.
Rory McIlroy was also struggling to stay in touch, the US Open champion dropping two shots in the first three holes - just as he had done in the opening round on Thursday.
The 22-year-old safely parred the fourth, but then missed a short birdie putt on the fifth after hitting his drive on the 417-yard par-four to around 30 yards short of the green.
At two over par he was now six off the lead, with the last group due out shortly after 3pm.

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