The springlike bluster of the first round gave way to gentle summer breezes
on Friday, and anyone who didn't take advantage of it was left behind as
player after player battered par.
Darren Clarke, Justin Leonard, Jesper Parnevik, Fred Couples and unknown
David Tapping grabbed a healthy handful of Troon's generosity to separate
themselves from all but a few in the field.
Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Jim Furyk were among those who
let a golden scoring opportunity slip away on a suddenly tranquil day on
the west coast of Scotland.
The wind that whipped off the Irish Sea on Thursday turned into a bit of
a breeze on Friday. Clarke warmed the balmy day with a hot putter to shoot
a 66 to be at 9-under-par 133, two strokes better than Leonard, who also
shot a 66.
``We were hitting 3-, 4- and 5-irons into the par-4s on the back nine today,''
Clarke said about the decidedly different conditions at Troon. ``Yesterday
we were hitting 3-woods in.''
Only 11 players bettered par on Thursday while 46 took advantage of the
gentle conditions in the second round to shoot 70 or below.
``Yesterday was the toughest Open course ever and today it was easier, with
birdie opportunities on the back nine,'' Parnevik said after also shooting
a 66 to trail Clarke by three strokes.
Couples, with a 68, was four back along with Tapping, a 22-year-old pro
from England playing in his first British Open.
Almost unbelievably, he made birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 _ two of the most
difficult holes on the course _ and shot a 66 to be tied with Couples at
``It was a fantastic high out there all the way around,'' Tapping said.
``You have to just just milk the situation when it happens.''
Clarke, a 28-year-old rising star from Northern Ireland looking for his
first victory in a major championship, milked it as well as anyone.
``It's only Friday,'' Clarke said. ``But if I do get into contention on
Sunday afternoon, I believe I can give it a go.''
He will have plenty of company. Leonard, Parnevik, Couples and Tapping all
played as brilliantly as Clarke in the second round.
``Tomorrow, I'm not worried about Darren Clarke,'' Couples said after turning
in the only scorecard among the leaders without a bogey on it. ``I am worried
about the way I play.''
If the weather remains as calm over the weekend as it was on Friday, many
birdies will be needed to stay in contention. Some big names were not able
to do that in the second round.
Furyk, the co-leader with Clarke after the first round, shot a 72 to fall
six strokes behind at 139, a number matched by Tom Kite, who climbed back
into contention on the strength of a 67.
Others were not as fortunate.
Norman managed only a 73 and was at 142. Faldo's mediocre 73 put him at
144 along with U.S. Open champion Ernie Els. Defending champion Tom Lehman
had a 72 to be at 146 along with Woods, who shot a 74 marred by a quadruple
``Obviously, if you don't shoot a good number today, you feel like you didn't
accomplish what you wanted to,'' Woods said.
Hometown favorite Colin Montgomerie, perhaps the best player in the world
without a major championship victory, shot a 69, but that wasn't good enough
to make up for a 75 in the first round. He was also at 144.
Getting off to a good start is the key to Royal Troon. The first six holes
include three par-4s that are 391 yards or less and two par-5s that can
be easily reached in two strokes.
Clarke played the course the way it needs to be played _ attacking the front
nine with six birdies and two bogeys. He began the much more difficult back
side with a bogey on No. 10 but managed two birdies in three holes starting
at No. 14.
Clarke's fine round came on solid putting. Five of his eight birdies were
from 20 feet out.
``The past few weeks I've had a lot of lip outs,'' Clarke said. ``But the
last two days I've made up for the last few weeks.''
Leonard, who had a chance to shoot the lowest round of the tournament until
he had a three-putt bogey on No. 18, made eagles on both of the par-5s on
the front nine as he shot a 31.
``I was a little bit surprised to see the wind lay down like it did,'' Leonard
said. ``It's still a hard golf course. We've seen the two extremes.''
Couples started his round with a birdie and ended with a birdie. At one
point, he made 13 consecutive pars.
``I tried to be aggressive,'' Couples said. ``I hit driver and drove it
very well, solid, long and straight.''
Parnevik, second to Nick Price in the 1994 British Open at Turnberry when
he bogeyed the final hole after failing to check the scoreboard and see
he was leading, played a nearly flawless round.
His only bogey came on the first hole when he three-putted from 30 feet
using a putter he switched to overnight after making three good birdie putts
on the closing holes of the first round.
``My putting felt terrible all day yesterday,'' Parnevik said. ``It was
just incredible how I could shoot one-under par on the back nine.''
He continued his mastery there Friday with a 33.
For the second straight day, Woods ran into trouble early on the back nine.
On Thursday, it was a triple bogey on No. 11. On Friday, the Masters champion
made a quadruple bogey on No. 10.
After driving into the left rough, his second shot flew over the green into
heavy rough near a thorny gorse bush. He swung at the ball but went right
under it without moving it.
Woods then hacked it about six yards into more nasty stuff and finally chipped
to just off the front of the green. From there he chipped to 12 feet and
two-putted for an eight.
``If you take away those two bad holes,'' Woods said of Nos. 10 and 11,
``I am three-under par and not playing that badly. Hopefully, I will get
off to a good start tomorrow.''